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11 months after Poland’s politicized Constitutional Tribunal decided to further restrict women’s reproductive rights, a pregnant woman died because she was denied access to abortion. The 30-year-old Izabela from Ćwiklice in southern Poland died of a septic shock in her 22 week of pregnancy. Doctors forced her to carry the fetus until its heart stopped beating. Once it did, it was too late to save her own life. The woman died of a septic shock.
While she passed away on September 22, the news reached public opinion only recently. When Izabela was brought to the County Hospital in Pszczyna, doctors confirmed that the fetus had structural defects, but refused to perform an abortion. While still in hospital, Izabela mentioned the strict abortion law in text messages she sent to her family, suggesting that it was because of the Constitutional Tribunal’s verdict that doctors were waiting with the termination procedure.
Last year, the Tribunal ruled pregnancy termination due to fetal defects unconstitutional. Because irreversible birth defects were, and continue to be, the reason for well over 90% of all termination procedures (those included in official statistics), the court’s ruling has made abortion practically illegal and unattainable for Polish women.
Izabela’s tragic death reignited discussion about Poland’s draconian abortion ban, bringing thousands of protesters from all over the country out on the streets on Saturday. An estimated 30 thousand people participated in the tribute march for the deceased woman in Warsaw alone. Their main slogan- "Not One More!".
The Warsaw march started at 3.30 p.m. in front of the Constitutional Tribunal building on Szucha Avenue. There, organizers read aloud the text messages Izabela sent to her mother from the hospital.
The manifestation differed from other women’s rights protests that took place in Warsaw since the passing of the abortion ban last year. It was dominated by a mournful mood. When the march reached Castle Square, people lit candles or turned on flashlights in their phones and the song "Sound of Silence" by Disturbed played from the speakers. The same song was also played at the funeral marches following the murder of the Gdańsk mayor Paweł Adamowicz.
Krakowskie Przedmieście- one of Warsaw’s most representative streets located near the Royal Castle- quickly filled up with a massive crowd. The march stretched for over a kilometer. According to various estimates, the protest was attended by some 30 thousand people.
The demonstration was also attended by many opposition politicians, including the leader of the Civic Platform Donald Tusk, and the Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski. The latter published a passionate post on his Facebook profile shortly before the march. "Doctors should not act under pressure because some fake tribunal passed a ruling. Unfortunately, this is exactly what begins to happen. Iza's death is an example of this - the worst and most tragic example. It is an example of the thoughtless, ideologically-driven, and vicious actions of the ruling Law and Justice party. - Trzaskowski wrote, calling for a change in the "barbaric abortion law".
The march ended in front of the Ministry of Health. When the demonstration was coming to an end, a small group of abortion opponents appeared in front of the Ministry with a banner showing fetuses covered in blood.
While the anti-choice activists prayed aloud, the participants of the tribute march for Izabela tried to shout them down. It came to a violent and sharp exchange of arguments. Some of the protesters shouted: "You have blood on your hands!". The other side yelled: "You will burn in hell!" and "May your mothers forgive you!". Both groups were eventually cordoned off by the police.
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