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On Saturday, October 30, we received the saddening news about the death of a patient in the Pszczyna County Hospital. Our legal team confirmed this information at the source.

The young woman died because she had the misfortune of becoming pregnant in Poland, a theoretically democratic country in the heart of Europe, where religious fundamentalism trumps women's rights.

Catholic extremists who put their religious ideology above everything else have led to a situation where women do not want to get pregnant and doctors are afraid to treat them. In spite of all this, the initiators of the abortion ban consider their radical solutions to be the only acceptable path.

We are filled with boundless sadness and infinite rage at all the people who have led to the tightening of the already inhuman anti-abortion law, which has been in force in Poland since 1993. It was their decisions that led to this unnecessary death, and it will most likely not be the last one.

We are shocked, but unfortunately not surprised. It has been known for years that banning abortion never leads to a reduction in the number of the procedures themselves - it only makes women less safe. Although abortion pills and reproductive self-help are currently available to thousands of Polish women, we certainly need systemic solutions. The recent death of the young woman in Pszczyna only reinforces our conviction. Accessible, safe, and decriminalized abortion is a basic human right because it guarantees over half of the population the ability to self-determinate in full.

Every day, we work with patients who try to obtain an abortion in Polish hospitals. We emphasize that it is possible - since the ban was introduced, we helped over 300 people to access basic health care in their own country.

More often than not, however, doctors are terrified of the binding law- the so-called "chilling effect" is at work. Fear of persecution or prosecution ties the hands of doctors who would otherwise want to help their patients.

Therefore, in addition to providing direct assistance to women, our organization’s legal staff also provides hospital teams, gynecology, and obstetrics departments with legal training. For more information call 22 635 93 95 or email federacja@federa.org.pl and prawniczka@federa.org.pl.

The stories of women we help are shocking. We receive phone calls from patients who have heard the diagnosis of anecephaly, acrania, gastroschisis, or other irreversible fetal defects. It makes the reality of the last year’s abortion ban very tangible for us. Polish women today are forced to live in fear, and even the dream pregnancy is often associated with a petrifying feeling instead of an explosion of joy and a celebratory mood. We have been robbed of the joy of motherhood by religious extremists - it is because of them that Polish women who find out they are pregnant today wonder whether they will even live to see the end of their pregnancy.

We do not accept a world in which the law is catered to a handful of religious fundamentalists. There is no substantive argument that would justify the horrifying reality in which we live, one which is decided by political stakeholders rushing blindly forward. We continue to collect signatures under the "Legal Abortion. No Compromise" project and we fight for the restoration of full reproductive rights to Polish women.

Izabela was 30 years old, she left behind a daughter and a husband. We will not forget about her as we continue our work.

***

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

We decided to make our service available to everyone free of charge in order to provide access to high quality journalism for expats and English speakers interested in Polish affairs. 

The access to information should be equal for all.

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