Outrage at Poland’s sentencing of pro-choice activist for helping with abortion

Outrage at Poland’s sentencing of pro-choice activist for helping with abortion
Protests against the Constitutional Tribunal's judgement, that took effect in January 2021. / bne IntelliNews
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw March 16, 2023

A number of Polish and international human rights organisations have condemned the sentencing of a Polish pro-choice activist for providing abortion pills to a woman in an abusive relationship.

Activist Justyna Wydrzynska was sentenced to eight months of community work for facilitating abortion, a court in Warsaw decided on March 14. Wydrzynska is a co-founder of Abortion Dream Team, a Polish NGO helping women who seek to terminate pregnancies.

Since 2021, abortion has remained outlawed in Poland except in cases of pregnancy that is an effect of crime like rape or incest or when the life of a woman is in danger. The government-controlled Constitutional Tribunal ruled terminating pregnancy due to abnormalities of the foetus was unconstitutional in 2020. The ruling went into effect in January 2021.

Activists say that restrictive law has had an effect even in cases where termination was legal, citing the death of a 30-year-old Iza, whose potentially life-saving abortion was delayed by doctors fearing legal consequences.

Wydrzynska sent a woman known as Ania her own abortion pills after Ania warned her of a pregnancy, which she feared because of staying in an abusive relationship with her husband. The husband found out about the pills and informed the police. 

“Today’s conviction of human rights defender Justyna Wydrzyńska is deeply concerning,” Keina Yoshida, senior legal adviser at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“Her prosecution sets a dangerous precedent for targeting human rights defenders in Poland who are working to advance reproductive rights and challenge Poland’s de facto ban on abortion,” Yoshida added.

Amnesty International said that the conviction was a “chilling snapshot” of the future of women’s rights.

Wydrzynska said that she would appeal the sentence.