Protests will be held across Poland on June 14 as the news of yet another woman losing her life shakes Polish society.
The 33-year-old woman, identified only as Dorota, went to the hospital after her water broke in the fifth month of her pregnancy. She died there of sepsis three days later.
She was told to lie in her hospital bed with her legs up because this might help restore amniotic fluid and was given limited medical care and information about her state. No one from the medical staff explained to her or her family the real danger she was in and that there was little to no chance that the fetus would survive.
Sepsis develops very rapidly in situations such as Dorota’s, yet lifesaving medical care was delayed and Dorota and her family were denied the right to know that abortion care would have been possible and would have saved Dorota from a death sentence.
Prosecutors and the patients’ ombudsman in Poland are investigating the death of Dorota amid the family’s accusations that the doctors kept them in the dark and didn't take the necessary steps to save her.
Two years ago, Poland's conservative government severely restricted access to abortion care, but the law does allow for doctors to intervene and perform an abortion if the woman's health or life is in danger. Yet, we have seen time and time again with the cases of Iza, Agnieszka, Anna, and now Dorota, that this law is killing women and hurting families. Denying access to abortion care is a sinister form of gender-based violence which can amount to femicide.
This law has real consequences on women, life and death consequences, and it’s beyond inexplicable how the ruling party can continue to cause so much needless suffering.
But make no mistake, doctors continue to have the responsibility to protect the health of women. Fear of prosecution needs to stop being used as an excuse in a country where no doctor has ever been the target of law enforcement in cases where abortion care was provided when the life or health of women were at risk.
Yes, those holding political power are responsible for violating women’s rights and causing this suffering, but doctors who do not help a person in need are complicit.
The wellbeing of patients should come first not only when it comes to abortion care, but regarding all reproductive matters. Gynaecological and obstetric violence is widespread in Poland and we want doctors to speak out and work towards social change. Their silence and lack of action, their betrayal of the trust patients place in them, leads to tragedy.
We ask doctors to stop sitting on the sidelines while their patients are suffering and even dying. And we ask the government to lift this draconian virtual ban on abortion care.
See you in the streets.