On Tuesday, a Polish women's rights activist was found guilty of "aiding an abortion". She was sentenced to 8 months of community service for providing pills to another woman. It is the first conviction of this kind in Europe.
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Justyna Wydrzyńska, activist and founder of the Abortion Dream Team, has been helping women in need of an abortion for the past 16 years. When Anna reached out to her three years ago, Justyna shared her own abortion pills with her. Anna’s former partner reported Justyna to the police.

On Tuesday, March 14, the Praga District Court in Warsaw held the sixth hearing in the trial against Justyna. She was accused of "aiding abortion" – a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison. Judges considered further evidence presented by the prosecution and the ultra-Catholic organization Ordo Iuris. The latter acted as a party in the trial and represented the interests of the unborn fetus.

A landmark case in Poland and Europe

Justyna’s case is the first of its kind in Europe.

After almost a year-long legal battle, the court found Justyna Wydrzyńska guilty under Article 152, Section 2 of the Criminal Code - "aiding an abortion". Her sentence: restriction of liberty in the form of eight months of community service. The activist is to perform unpaid labor for 30 hours a month under supervision. She must also cover the costs of the trial. The justification of the verdict was made confidential.

 "The court and the Polish prosecution have no idea about violence taking place in this country, about abortion, about women's lives. The court believes that women who ‘may not have been ready for a child should be punished’" - Natalia Broniarczyk, the co-founder of the Abortion Dream Team, commented on the verdict.

Kinga Jelińska, another member of the Abortion Dream Team: - The verdict is pathetic, detached from reality. It’s stigmatizing. It shows all women the middle finger and proves a complete lack of understanding. But a lot is now changing in Poland. Public support for abortion is growing. It's up to politicians and the courts to catch up. Being convicted for helping someone? Was she supposed to leave Ania alone? Where is the logic here?

Justyna Wydrzyńska's defense attorney, Anna Bergiel, pointed out that the justification of the verdict made one thing clear: providing information about abortion is not punishable. - This is an important message for women’s rights activists – she stressed.

Justyna made it clear that she does not regret her decision, and announced that she will continue helping women in need of an abortion.

-This woman was in a very bad mental state, her health and life were in danger. I helped, because in her story I recognized my own. Anna thanked me, and this is the only thing that matters. I did the right thing. It was a human reflex of empathy. You can't punish someone for showing empathy – Justyna said.

Once the verdict was announced, a demonstration in support of Justyna Wydrzyńska in front of the court building continued. "Justyna, dear, you will not walk alone!" - the crowd chanted. Activists associated with the Abortion Dream Team spoke to the protesters. People began to share abortion pills and information.

The activists announced they will appeal the decision.

How it all began

In February 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Poland, Anna, who had an unwanted pregnancy, reached out to members of the Abortion Without Borders organization.  She was considering doing the procedure abroad. The pills she ordered were taking too long to arrive, and she couldn't wait any longer.

Anna's partner at that time did not want her to terminate the pregnancy. He threatened her, controlled her, and tried to blackmail her. Justyna Wydrzyńska decided to send Anna her own abortion pills. She did not want any money. The package was illegally intercepted by Anna’s partner. He immediately reported everything to the police.

Justyna Wydrzyńska's trial began in early April of last year. It is the first such case in Europe, when an activist, member of an organization, stands before the court for "aiding an abortion". The trial was prolonged because the key witnesses, Anna and her former partner, failed to make it to previous hearings.

Anna didn't have a chance to contact the court, because, as we would later learn, the violent man intercepted her correspondence and forged her signatures. The subpoenas never reached her.

In addition, Ordo Iuris kept providing new evidence in the form of interviews with Justyna Wydrzyńska. The journalistic materials were intended to harm the accused activist, to serve as evidence of the fact that Wydrzyńska assists in abortions, which she does not even hide. Among the provided "evidence" was Wyborcza’s interview with the activists from last July.

Anna finally made it to court in early February 2023. Her testimony was classified. What we do know is that she thanked Wydrzyńska for her help "in a situation where people who had a moral, and some of them also a legal obligation to help me, idly stood by".


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