The effects of the 1993 anti-abortion law in Poland

Entre Nous Cph Den. 1996 Dec:(34-35):13-5.


PIP: Poland's "anti-abortion" law, which has been in effect since March 1993, is one of the most restrictive in Europe. Under this law, abortion is allowed only when there is justifiable suspicion that the pregnancy constitutes a threat to the life or a serious threat to the health of the mother, that the fetus is irreversibly damaged, or that the pregnancy resulted from an illegal act. Nevertheless, women continue to seek abortions at all costs, and the anti-abortion law has led to creation of "underground" abortion services and "abortion tourism." The existence of underground abortion services (with most available in large cities) is documented through the proliferation of advertisements that contain certain catch phrases, through the testimony of women who have received abortions from private gynecologists, through anonymous statements issued by physicians who perform abortions, and by a government report. Abortion costs range from US$400-800, whereas an average monthly salary in Poland is US$300. As an alternative, an estimated 16,000 Polish women travel to neighboring countries to receive an abortion. The social consequences of the anti-abortion law include an increasing number of abandoned children or infants and an increasing number of teenage pregnancies and late pregnancies. The anti-abortion law has proved to be more restrictive in practice than on paper as women with a right to legal abortion and all the required documentation are refused the procedure. Affected women fail to lodge complaints with the Ministry of Health because they want to put the situation behind them or because they are afraid they will be prosecuted. Other effects of the law are that Poles live in permanent fear of pregnancy and suffer terrible guilt when they resort to abortion. Many obstacles impede use of contraceptives in Poland, and implementation of mandated sex education is chaotic and uneven with most teachers justifiably claiming that they are unqualified to teach this subject.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Developed Countries
  • Europe
  • Europe, Eastern
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Legislation as Topic*
  • Poland