Stigmatisation and commercialisation of abortion services in Poland: turning sin into gold

Reprod Health Matters. 2011 May;19(37):98-106. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(11)37548-9.


This paper is about the economic consequences of the stigmatisation and illegality of abortion and its almost complete removal from public health services in Poland since the late 1980s. Once abortion left the public sphere, it entered the grey zone of private arrangements, in which a woman's private worries became someone else's private gain, and her sin turned into gold. The most important consequence was social inequality, as the right to health, life, information and safety became commodities on the free market. Women with money, who are more likely to have political influence, find this bearable, while working class women lack the political capital to protest. In the private sector, there are no government controls on price, quality of care or accountability, and almost no prosecutions. With an estimated 150,000 abortions per year, a rough estimate of US$ 95 million is being generated annually for doctors, unregistered and tax-free. Thus, the combined forces of right-wing ideology and neoliberal economic reforms have created reproductive and social injustice. To address this, stigmatisation of abortion must be countered. But a change in the political climate, a less restrictive interpretation of the law, or even a new law would not resolve the problem. Given reductions in public health care spending, abortion would remain excluded from state coverage unless neoliberal health care reforms could be reversed.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / economics*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Health Care Reform / organization & administration
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Humans
  • Poland
  • Policy
  • Pregnancy
  • Prejudice*
  • Private Sector / economics*
  • Private Sector / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproductive Health Services / economics
  • Reproductive Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Women's Health