Poland is a deeply Catholic country, with laws restricting abortion. But now these laws are being challenged, not just in Poland itself, but also in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
This European Court ruled on the case of Tysiac vs Poland in 2007. The woman in question was Alicja Tysiac, who argued that continuing with her pregnancy could aggravate her severe case of near-sightedness. Several Polish doctors, including the specialists and her GP, studied Tysiac’s case and they said that it did not meet the criteria for a legal abortion. Although she insisted that she wanted to abort her child, doctors told her that the baby posed no risk to her life. After giving birth to her third child her eyesight subsequently deteriorated.
Alicja Tysiąc z Julką
In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Poland has no effective legal framework for women to assert their right to abortion on medical grounds, and ordered Poland to pay Ms Tysiac €25,000 in compensation. Ewa Kowaleska of the Forum of Polish Women, a group who supported Ms Tysiac in her case, said that, “The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has an ideological basis. It is a form of pressure on Poland to consider abortion as a ‘woman’s right’.”
Poland has stricter abortion laws than in other European countries, and many doctors refuse to carry out the procedure. Abortion is permitted where the health of the mother is at risk, and in the case of rape or incest, or where the baby has a serious handicap. It is estimated that approximately 200 legal abortions are performed each year. Abortion, reportedly introduced in Poland by Hitler, was widely available in Poland under communism. Following the collapse of communism in Central Europe, a resurgent Catholic Church campaigned hard to obtain recognition of the right-to-life of the unborn child. Subsequently, abortion, which had been available on demand, was now permitted in much more restricted circumstances.
In 2009, a Polish court imposed a fine of $10,288 on the largest Catholic weekly "Gosc Niedzielny" (Sunday Visitor) for questioning the ruling by the European Human Rights Court in Tysiac. that ordered the state to pay a large sum of money to a short-sighted woman who was denied an illegal abortion.
Following the European Court's ruling that Poland’s laws resulted in a ‘wrongful birth’, Fr. Gancarczyk published an editorial condemning the court's decision, saying, "In consequence, Ms. Tysiac will receive €25,000 damages, plus the costs of proceedings, for not being able to kill her own child. In other words, we are living in a world where a mother is granted an award for the fact that she very much wanted to kill her child, but was forbidden to do so." He compared abortion to Nazi practises and lamented that people “have become accustomed to murders carried out outside the gates of a (concentration) camp.”
Katowice District Court ordered Fr. Gancarczyk, the priest-editor of “Gosc Niedzielny,” to pay the fine and to publish an apology. Fr. Gancarczyk has refused to do. Church leaders and public personalities have spoken out strongly against what they call an infringement of Catholics' freedom of speech. The Polish Conference of Bishops called the verdict "an unacceptable limitation of the Church's mission," and "an attempt against freedom of speech and the right of the Church to moral judgement of human behaviour". "The killers of unborn children, both women as well as doctors, are murderers and no verdicts will ban Catholic media from speaking out the truth," stated the Catholic Journalists Association. "Calling abortion 'murder' is not 'hate speech'," said head of the Media Ethics Council Magdalena Bajer, "it is a straightforward judgement of the essence of abortion, from the Catholic point of view". "If abortion is not the killing of a baby at a certain stage of its embryonic life, then what is it?” asked MP Boleslaw Piecha, a doctor who ceased conducting abortions after a conversion - "Eviction from the uterus?” Wojciech Cejrowski, TV and radio celebrity commented, "Maybe thanks to this verdict we will realize that there is an open war on the Church… We cannot use a thousand words to describe abortion. We have to use just one word: murder. You have to call murder a murder, not 'abortion' or 'surgical procedure’."
Poland, Ireland and Malta are the last countries in the European Union to retain effective protections for unborn children. These three countries have been placed in the direct line of fire by abortion activists within the UN and the EU. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) complained that Poland’s laws conflicted with their obligations under article 12 of the UN’s Convention to protect women’s equal right to access health care services. CEDAW, one of the UN’s most active abortion lobbying organisations, regularly insists that countries around the world eliminate pro-life legal protections. Reports submitted by the UN on health care rights include comprehensive attacks on Poland’s pro-life position on access to abortion, conscientious objection for health care workers, and the rights of the Catholic Church teaching on contraception and sex education.
Poland, and other Slavic counties, continues to stand firm against the European Court, and make their views also known to the EU. Slovakian delegate Branislav Lysák MEP has emphasized that Poland’s laws on abortion have benefited both women and children. Infant mortality in Poland has dropped by 71% over the last 2 decades and maternal mortality is down by 82%. These figures match those released recently by the UN which show that Ireland, with one of the most restrictive laws on abortion in Europe, has one of the world’s lowest maternal mortality rates.
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