Poland must bring its abortion laws into line with international human rights standards. This is the message of the Oireachtas All Party Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights on International Women’s Day (Monday, March 8th 2021).
Last January, Poland’s government published an announcement from the Constitutional Tribunal regarding the abortion law, which will result in a de facto ban on abortion. Today (March 8th) members of parliament across Europe are raising their voices in solidarity with the women’s movement in Poland and calling for reform of the law and respect for women’s human rights.
Speaking at Leinster House, Senator Annie Hoey, co-Chair of the All Party Group, said, “The declaration by the Constitutional Tribunal means that there is now a virtual total ban on abortion in Poland. This restriction of Poland’s already draconian abortion law is an attack on women’s rights to dignity, autonomy and bodily integrity.”
Senator Hoey continued, “We express our solidarity, respect and admiration for those who are tirelessly and courageously defending the rights of women in Poland.”
Holly Cairns, TD said, “As Irish parliamentarians, we know that legal prohibitions on abortion do not prevent abortion or reduce the rates of abortion. Such restrictions serve only to harm women’s health. We in Ireland are acutely aware of the harms caused to women’s health and wellbeing by restrictive abortion laws.”
Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee said, “Poland’s abortion laws fly in the face of international human rights law. Poland must bring its laws into compliance with the requirements of the right to health and with international healthcare standards.”
Senator Higgins, who sits on the Executive Committee of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, said, “This is not only about Poland. Whenever and wherever women’s fundamental human rights are under attack, that must be a matter of international concern. Today, we join parliamentarians and civil society across Europe to stand in solidarity with those in Poland and worldwide who are challenging regressive and damaging restrictions on sexual and reproductive health.”
Note for editors
- Abortion law in Poland
Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe: access to abortion is extremely limited—and often practically impossible. While 25 of the 27 European member states allow abortion on request or on broad social grounds, only Poland and Malta do not. Abortion is permitted in Poland only in situations of risk to the life or health of a pregnant woman, or if a pregnancy results from sexual assault.
A recent pronouncement by the country’s Constitutional Tribunal will make abortion care even more difficult to access. On October 22, 2020, the Tribunal ruled that abortion on grounds of severe or fatal foetal impairment is unconstitutional.
In addition, even in situations in which abortion is legal in Poland, multiple barriers severely limit access to care, and it is almost impossible in practice for women in these circumstances to obtain access to legal abortion in Poland. Women are often forced to travel to other countries in order to access safe and legal care or obtain clandestine abortion in Poland.
The Tribunal’s diktat has led, therefore, to the introduction of a near-total ban on abortion. (Source: Center for Reproductive Rights)
- The Tribunal’s latest restriction sparked a series of massive civil society protests across Poland. Protesters have been threatened with violence and prosecution, and pepper spray has been used against hundreds of civilians. (Source: Poland abortion ruling: Police use pepper spray against protesters – BBC News)
- The All Party Oireachtas Interest Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (All Party Group)
The All Party Group was founded in 2000. It is an informal interest group whose purpose is to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are central to Irish government policy.
The group consists of members of all political parties, and of independents, in the Dáil and Seanad. There are currently 26 members. The group is co-chaired by Senator Annie Hoey (Labour), Holly Cairns TD (Social Democrats) and Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee (Fianna Fáil). Senator is the current convening Chair.
The group monitors the implementation of policy on sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion care, access to contraception and comprehensive sexuality education, female genital mutilation and family planning—within policy in Ireland and in the context of overseas development policy and the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The All Party Group is affiliated to the European Parliamentary Forum (EPF) for Sexual & Reproductive Rights. Senator Alice Mary Higgins (Independent) is a member of the Executive Committee of the EPF.
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) acts as the Secretariat to the All Party Group.
- The International Women’s Day actions by parliamentarians are being co-ordinated by the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, a Brussels-based network of Members of Parliament throughout Europe who are committed to protecting the sexual and reproductive rights of the world’s most vulnerable people, in Europe and globally. Senator Alice Mary Higgins sits on the Executive Committee of the EPF.