Europe

Polish activists condemn abortion law after second pregant woman dies

Human rights activists have slammed Poland’s new abortion restrictions after the death of another pregnant woman.

The family of a 37-year-old — known as Agnieszka T. — say she died of sepsis, related to a foetal illness.

Agnieszka T. arrived at hospital with stomach pains while pregnant with twins, her family say. One of her foetus’ died on 23 December, but doctors had waited to see if they could save the second foetus, they added.

“The extraction of the dead foetus was not allowed because Polish law strictly forbids it,” they wrote on Facebook.

“[Doctors] waited for the other twin’s vital functions to stabilise on their own [for eight days]”.

The second foetus died on 31 December due to a “miscarriage,” while Agnieszka T. remained in hospital in Czestochowa until she too passed away on Tuesday.

Polish judicial authorities say they are investigating the woman’s death and whether medical staff exposed her to unnecessary risks.

Poland controversially amended its legislation on abortion last year, prompting widespread protests.

The country’s constitutional court had ruled that abortions for foetal illnesses were “unconstitutional”, on top of already restrictive legislation.

All abortions are now banned in Poland, except in cases of rape and incest or when the life or health of the mother is considered to be in danger.

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Poland’s conservative government says the ban is necessary to prevent what it calls “eugenic abortions”. But campaigners say the new law forces women into unwanted pregnancies.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the World Organisation Against Torture and several other NGOs issued a joint statement on Wednesday condemning the law.

The law “has had a devastating impact on women’s lives,” the NGOs said.

“The ruling has increased the extreme obstacles faced by women seeking access to abortion and has had tragic consequences for many of them and their families.”

Last year, thousands of Poles demonstrated when a 30-year-old woman also died of sepsis after her foetus died.

Poland’s opposition and women’s rights activists once again demonstrated outside the Constitutional Court in Warsaw on Wednesday.

According to NGOs, more than 1,000 Polish women have already turned to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the near-total ban on abortions.

Even before the law was tightened, an estimated 200,000 women had terminated their pregnancies illegally or abroad, while fewer than 2,000 legal abortions were performed each year in Poland.

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