This is a first for justice in Poland, where the law on abortion, toughened last year, is among the most restrictive in Europe. An abortion rights activist could end up behind bars. Her name is Justyna Wydrzyńska, 47, mother of three, activist of the collective Aborcyjny Dream Team (ADT). His trial opens Friday, April 8 in Warsaw.
“I felt that I had to help him”
The accused is not serene. When, in February 2020, she is contacted by Anna, a woman who is waiting in vain for abortion pills sent by a foreign organization, she does not think of the risk of prosecution. Anna wanted to go to Germany for an abortion, but she should have gone there with her very young child. And her husband, violent on several occasions, threatened to accuse her of kidnapping. She therefore sought to obtain abortion pills.
→ LARGE FORMAT. Abortion in Poland, four committed women testify
Inaccessible in Poland, these had to be provided by foreign “pro-choice” organisations. But the post office is operating at a slower pace due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Justyna has the medicine in question at home, ” for (s) for personal use ». She sends it to Anna for free. “I felt I had to help him. We couldn’t force her to continue this pregnancy.” tell to The cross the accused.
Like Anna, Justyna was plagued by comparable violence in her marital relationship, in 2006, when she decided to have an abortion. On the package, it indicates “naively” his telephone number. At the reception, Anna cannot use these pills: her husband has reported her to the police. On June 1, 2021, the police arrived at Justyna’s home, carried out a search, seized her computer and her telephone to recover a trace of the exchanges. In the end, the baby was never born. Anna announced that her pregnancy had terminated, without specifying whether this termination was natural or induced.
Individual case, collective cause
Performing a self-managed abortion is not an offense in Poland. But those who lend assistance to it or who push for it risk three years of imprisonment, under the terms of article 152 of the penal code. Cases have already resulted in suspended sentences. But this is the first time that a pro-abortion activist, who did not even know her correspondent, has been prosecuted.
The accused, prosecuted for “distribution of medicinal products without authorisation”, fears that the judicial authority will set an example with this time in prison. Amnesty International Poland, which has launched a petition, as well as 90 MEPs, are asking for the charges to be dropped.
Justyna Wydrzyńska’s trial could have an impact far beyond her individual case, notes her lawyer, Me Anna Bergiel. “It is the whole community advocating legal and safe abortion in Poland that risks being affected”, she underlines, while these organizations are already confronted with an increasingly hostile environment.
A resident of Przasnysz, a medium-sized town 100 km north of Warsaw, Justyna Wydrzyńska worked there for twenty years for the large international group ABB, a major player in energy technologies. From 2020, she is involved in the pro-abortion movement. Her informal group is part of the Abortion Without Borders coalition.
Endangerment of women
Access to abortion, already very limited in Poland since a law of 1993, was prohibited in cases of malformation or serious illness of the fetus, following a decision, on October 22, 2020, of a constitutional court agreed with the government majority. This restriction has already claimed the life of at least one young woman in the country. Abortion is currently authorized only in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life and health of the applicant.
→ REREAD. Abortion in Poland: the death of a pregnant woman arouses indignation
Before the toughening of the law, a thousand legal abortions could take place each year, but this figure has most likely fallen since then. In theory, Anna could have claimed an abortion accompanied by a medical team, because the attack on the mental health of the pregnant woman could be invoked. But pressure from anti-abortion circles, supported by the Catholic Church, means that doctors who invoke it are extremely rare.
Tragedies that raise outrage
Since the publication on January 27, 2021 of the decision of the Constitutional Court prohibiting abortion in the event of illness or serious malformation of the fetuss, Polish doctors were able to delay abortions for fear of being prosecuted.
On November 1, 2021, candles were lit across the country in memory of 30-year-old Izabela. Her pregnancy could not continue, in the absence of amniotic fluid. Doctors waited for the fetus’ heart to stop beating. The mother died of sepsis, leaving a husband and a baby girl.
At the end of January 2022, the death of Agnieszka, 37, arouses excitement. Pregnant with twins, she had to keep one of the fetuses that had died for seven days. She too died of sepsis.