Poland: Charges against activist accused of aiding an abortion must be dropped


Charges against an activist facing up to three years in prison for helping a pregnant woman access abortion pills in Poland must be dropped said Amnesty International today ahead of the resumption of her trial in Warsaw tomorrow.

In November 2021 human rights defender, Justyna Wydrzyńska, was charged with “helping with an abortion” and “possession of medicines without authorisation for the purpose of introducing them into the market”. The case marks the first in Europe in which an activist is being prosecuted for aiding an abortion by providing abortion pills.

“The trial of Justyna Wydrzyńska comes at a time when the threat to abortion rights has been brought into sharp focus by the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is a reminder that our rights to life, to health, to bodily integrity and autonomy cannot be taken for granted. We must and we are be prepared to fight for our rights for as long as it takes, when and where required.” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Anything less than all charges against Justyna Wydrzyńska being immediately dropped would set a dangerous precedent in Poland. It will also send a chilling message to other governments seeking to curtail the activities of abortion rights activists, who are campaigning for bodily autonomy and the right to access safe abortions.

“No one should be criminalized, let alone prosecuted, for helping someone to get a safe abortion. Around the world, prohibition of safe abortion kills thousands of women and girls every year.”

Abortion is only legal in Poland when the health or the life of the woman is at risk or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Performing your own abortion or the possession of abortion pills for a self-managed abortion is not a crime under Polish law, but any person or doctor who helps with an abortion outside the two permitted grounds may face up to three-years in prison.

“A woman contacted me in a desperate situation. She told me that her violent husband was trying to stop her from having an abortion. Her story touched my heart as I had had a similar experience. I felt I had to help her,” said Justyna Wydrzyńska.

“People who need an abortion in Poland must get reliable and unbiased information about safe abortions and they should access help and support. No one should be prosecuted for showing compassion and acting in solidarity. Not me. Not anyone.”

Background

Justyna Wydrzyńska is a doula who supports others through pregnancy and one of the founders of Abortion Dream Team, an activist collective that campaigns against abortion stigma in Poland and offers unbiased abortion advice following World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

Abortion Dream Team forms part of Abortion Without Borders , a cross European network that provides information, counselling, funding and practical support to people in Poland and other countries who need an abortion abroad or access to reliable online sources of abortion medicines.

Between January 2021 and January 2022, Abortion Without Borders was contacted by more than 32,000 people in Poland, which is a fivefold increase from the previous year. It supported more than 1,500 individuals to travel abroad for an abortion. In recent months, calls for help have increased as thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine arrive in Poland in need of sexual and reproductive healthcare.

More than 110,000 people in 18 countries have taken action to call on the Polish Prosecutor General to drop all charges against Justyna Wydrzyńska, decriminalise abortion and ensure access to safe and legal abortion without discrimination.

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