Abortion in Poland

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Abortion in Poland is banned except in the following three circumstances.

  1. When the woman's life or health is endangered by the continuation of pregnancy,
  2. When the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, or
  3. When the foetus is seriously malformed

Unlike in other countries where abortion is banned, women in Poland are not subject to a penalty for illegal termination of pregnancy. Consent of a physician is required for the circumstances (1) and (3) above, while abortions in view of circumstance (2) above must be certified by prosecutor. Parental consent is always required if the woman seeking abortion is a minor.[1]

In addition, persuading a woman to carry out illegal termination of her pregnancy is a criminal act in the same way as illegal abortion is.

Poland is one of the few countries in the world to outlaw abortion after decades of complete legalisation (during the Communist rule).


Until 1932, abortion was banned in Poland without exceptions. In that year, the new Penal Code legalized abortion only when there were medical reasons and, for the first time in Europe, when the pregnancy resulted from a criminal act.[2] Except during the German occupation during the Second World War, this law was in effect from 1932 to 1956. In 1956 the Sejm legalized abortion in cases where the woman was experiencing "difficult living conditions". The interpretation of the change in the law varied from a restrictive interpretation, in the late 1950s, to one in where abortion was allowed on request, in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the fall of Communism, the abortion debate erupted in Poland. The Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches and right-wing politicians pressured the government to ban abortion except in cases where abortion was the only way to save the life of the pregnant woman. Left-wing politicians and most liberals were opposed to this and pressured the government to maintain the above mentioned 1956 legislation. The abortion law in Poland today ("Law on family planning, protection of the human fetus and conditions for legal abortion") was enacted in January 1993 as a compromise between both camps.

In 1997, Parliament enacted a modification to the abortion bill, which permitted the termination of pregnancy in cases of emotional or social distress, but this law was deemed unconstitutional by the Polish Constitutional Court. In December of that year, the legal status of abortion in Poland was restored to that in 1993.

Current debate[edit]

Abortion law is one of the most important and controversial topics in current Polish politics,[according to whom?] with leftist parties strongly pro-choice rights, moderate parties defending current legislation, and right-wing parties predominantly anti-abortion. The question of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment was one of the reasons for the split in the Law and Justice (PiS) and the creation of Prawica Rzeczypospolitej, led by Marek Jurek. These same circles of society named the abortion debate a substitute topic (temat zastępczy).

In June 2011, Polish anti-abortion NGOs collected over 500,000 signatures for a proposed bill to ban abortion in Poland altogether. The bill, while rejected by a majority of the MPs, got enough support to be sent to a Sejm committee in order to be subject to further amendments. The move was criticized by two right-wing opposition parties, the Law and Justice and Poland Comes First, which expressed their support for the bill. The left-wing Democratic Left Alliance pursues a pro-choice policy and is against the bill. The ruling Civic Platform, while considering itself in favor of the current legislation on abortion in Poland, was divided in the views on the matter; more than 60 MPs of the party voted in favour of the bill.[3]

Public opinion[edit]

In the latest poll on abortion by the CBOS Public Opinion Research Center, 69% of Poles view abortion as immoral and unacceptable, 14% of Poles are ambivalent towards it and 14% view it as acceptable. Half of Poles oppose the right to abortion, but only one in seven (14%) supports the complete ban of all abortions, while more than one-third (36%) believe there should be exceptions. At the same time, almost half (45%) think that abortion should be permitted. In this group, 7% support abortion without restrictions, and 38% would like to see some restrictions to abortion rights.

Our surveys indicate a conservative turn in the 1990s. Although the supporters of legal abortion prevailed, the difference continuously narrowed. In 2006, when the discussion about introducing a constitutional ban on abortion was publicly conducted, the opponents of legal abortion were for the first time more numerous than supporters of abortion rights. At present the proportions have returned to 2007 levels, when both groups were about equal in size.

Most Poles accept abortion in cases when it is legal under current law. The support for abortion rights when mother's life is in danger is almost universal (87%). Over three-quarters of respondents think that it should be available for women whose pregnancy threatens their health (78%), or was caused by rape or incest (78%). Three-fifths (60%) support the right to abortion if it is known that the child would be handicapped.

The support for legal abortion in cases when it is currently banned is much lower. About a quarter think that it should be legal if the woman is in difficult material (26%) or personal (23%) situation. Almost one in five respondents (18%) think abortion should be legal if a woman does not want to have a child.[4]

See also[edit]