The fall of state socialism in Poland in 1989 constituted a critical moment which redefined policies on reproductive health care and access to family planning, influenced by the renewed power of the Catholic church. Poland also embarked on neoliberal economic reforms that resulted in major cutbacks in social services and state health care coverage. The confluence of the elimination of contraceptive subsidies, privatisation of health care, and the intensification of bribes to underpaid health care providers created new challenges for women in accessing services. Furthermore, the 1993 ban on abortion resulted in a nearly total privatisation of this service, which is currently available clandestinely at a high price. Drawing on anthropological research in the Gdańsk metropolitan region in 2007, this paper examines the restrictions on access to family planning, abortion, maternity care, assisted reproduction and other gynaecological services. It draws attention to the urgent need for state-subsidised family planning and other reproductive health services, the reform of abortion law, and regulation of privatised services. Higher wages for public sector health professionals and better public health provision would curb informal payments. The state should support the legitimacy of women's health needs and reproductive and sexual autonomy.
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