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News

Latest news from IPPF EN

Spotlight

A selection of news from across the Federation

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Ukraine

News item

Call To Action On Ukraine

Organizations urge the EU, European governments, the UN and other donor governments to protect SRHR and provide needed health care.
Spain flag
news item

| 19 May 2022

Spain debates plans for paid menstrual leave and wider abortion access

Currently, abortion care is available during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy based on a woman's indication.  Up to 22 weeks, abortion is permitted in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman or foetus. Thereafter, abortion care is only accessible in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life or extremely serious and incurable illness. Nonetheless, access to dignified and safe care remains an obstacle course especially for those already marginalized by systemic discrimination. But there is hope. This week, the government discussed a progressive law which gives autonomy to girls aged 16 to 18 to access abortion care without parental consent; regulates denial of care based on personal beliefs; and scraps medically unnecessary 3-day waiting periods delaying access to abortion. If approved, the law would also extend financing for contraceptive care. The draft law also guarantees up to 3 days of menstrual leave for painful periods; eliminates VAT on menstrual products; and asks that schools and prisons offer free menstrual products.  

Spain flag
news_item

| 19 May 2022

Spain debates plans for paid menstrual leave and wider abortion access

Currently, abortion care is available during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy based on a woman's indication.  Up to 22 weeks, abortion is permitted in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman or foetus. Thereafter, abortion care is only accessible in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life or extremely serious and incurable illness. Nonetheless, access to dignified and safe care remains an obstacle course especially for those already marginalized by systemic discrimination. But there is hope. This week, the government discussed a progressive law which gives autonomy to girls aged 16 to 18 to access abortion care without parental consent; regulates denial of care based on personal beliefs; and scraps medically unnecessary 3-day waiting periods delaying access to abortion. If approved, the law would also extend financing for contraceptive care. The draft law also guarantees up to 3 days of menstrual leave for painful periods; eliminates VAT on menstrual products; and asks that schools and prisons offer free menstrual products.  

choice
news item

| 12 May 2022

Turkmenistan ramps up policing of women’s bodies

Turkmen people were hoping that their newly appointed president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, would pursue a more progressive path than his father, but they were sorely mistaken. Since April 2022, the government has taken policing over women’s bodies to a whole new level: imposing a virtual ban on abortion care, enforcing a ban on a range of beauty services, forbidding women from sitting in the front seat of private cars and prohibiting male taxi drivers from offering rides to women. Abortion care access has been restricted from 12 to just five weeks. Overnight, the government made public a law that had originally been passed in 2015, without any public consultation, meaning that it was practically passed and published in secret. This law effectively bans abortion care, as most people don't even know they are pregnant at 5 weeks. The result is agonising for women, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, while others will have no choice but to go through the system and seek permission for care from a medical committee which delays critical healthcare and puts them at greater risk – with no guarantee that care will be provided. The committee can decide to approve care beyond the 5 weeks on social gounds, very linked to the family situation (eg allowed in case the husband dies, in case of divorce, but also in cases of rape). Women who are not able to access abortion in these circumstances might be forced to find a doctor who can provide the procedure illegally, often at huge costs. The terrifying truth is that women and girls living in countries with restrictive abortion laws are more likely to die because pregnancy is a major medical event where having choice over the care you receive is vital. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the long held anti-rights agenda of the government, but this latest raft of restrictions are particularly brutal.  They stem from the government’s idea of nation-building, which hinges on harmful gender stereotypes that value women only as mothers and symbols of purity, beauty, and modesty. But make no mistake, at the core this is about control. Women are only valued for their capacity to give birth, raise healthy patriots and thus preserve traditional family values. The reproductive bullying of women is supported by state media propaganda encouraging women to have eight children and by the lack of relationship and sexuality education. Furthermore, 50% of women are denied access to contraception, and a recent study found that nearly 60% of women feel unable to make autonomous decisions on issues like healthcare, contraception, and giving consent to sex.   Turkmenistan failing women and girls on multiple fronts with the world watching Turkmenistan has an abysmal human rights track record with women being treated as second class citizens. With bodily autonomy being steadily stripped away, women and girls are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, virginity tests, forced marriages and prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and obtaining a driver’s licenses.  According to UNICEF and TürkmenStat (MICS), 59% of women in Turkmenistan aged 15-49 say that a husband has the right to hit his wife. There is no law against domestic violence in Turkmenistan, nor are there mechanisms and national programmes to prevent domestic violence. All this shows that women cannot expect support from anywhere and it is safer for them to be silent and tolerate the violence. Governmental agencies do not provide any statistics related to women’s health and gender equality. As noted on the UN Women’s website: “As of December 2020, only 20.6% of indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available, with gaps in key areas in Turkmenistan.”  Freedom House has consistently ranked the country at or near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since its independence. And in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkmenistan as 179th out of 180 countries surveyed, only ahead of North Korea. Lastly, civic space in Turkmenistan is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. The country lacks anything resembling real civil society and the conditions for it to emerge.   Take action We cannot turn our backs on the people of Turkmenistan.The European Union, its Member States as well as other international bodies must not sit idly by in the face of such egregious attacks on women’s rights. The European Union in particular must uphold its values and use all tools and policies it has at its disposal, including the EU Gender Action Plan, to support Turkmen women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must take urgent action, raise our voices, and put pressure on the Turkmen state, so that Turkmen women are not forced to suffer in silence.   Credit illustration: Martina Koleva  

choice
news_item

| 12 May 2022

Turkmenistan ramps up policing of women’s bodies

Turkmen people were hoping that their newly appointed president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, would pursue a more progressive path than his father, but they were sorely mistaken. Since April 2022, the government has taken policing over women’s bodies to a whole new level: imposing a virtual ban on abortion care, enforcing a ban on a range of beauty services, forbidding women from sitting in the front seat of private cars and prohibiting male taxi drivers from offering rides to women. Abortion care access has been restricted from 12 to just five weeks. Overnight, the government made public a law that had originally been passed in 2015, without any public consultation, meaning that it was practically passed and published in secret. This law effectively bans abortion care, as most people don't even know they are pregnant at 5 weeks. The result is agonising for women, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, while others will have no choice but to go through the system and seek permission for care from a medical committee which delays critical healthcare and puts them at greater risk – with no guarantee that care will be provided. The committee can decide to approve care beyond the 5 weeks on social gounds, very linked to the family situation (eg allowed in case the husband dies, in case of divorce, but also in cases of rape). Women who are not able to access abortion in these circumstances might be forced to find a doctor who can provide the procedure illegally, often at huge costs. The terrifying truth is that women and girls living in countries with restrictive abortion laws are more likely to die because pregnancy is a major medical event where having choice over the care you receive is vital. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the long held anti-rights agenda of the government, but this latest raft of restrictions are particularly brutal.  They stem from the government’s idea of nation-building, which hinges on harmful gender stereotypes that value women only as mothers and symbols of purity, beauty, and modesty. But make no mistake, at the core this is about control. Women are only valued for their capacity to give birth, raise healthy patriots and thus preserve traditional family values. The reproductive bullying of women is supported by state media propaganda encouraging women to have eight children and by the lack of relationship and sexuality education. Furthermore, 50% of women are denied access to contraception, and a recent study found that nearly 60% of women feel unable to make autonomous decisions on issues like healthcare, contraception, and giving consent to sex.   Turkmenistan failing women and girls on multiple fronts with the world watching Turkmenistan has an abysmal human rights track record with women being treated as second class citizens. With bodily autonomy being steadily stripped away, women and girls are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, virginity tests, forced marriages and prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and obtaining a driver’s licenses.  According to UNICEF and TürkmenStat (MICS), 59% of women in Turkmenistan aged 15-49 say that a husband has the right to hit his wife. There is no law against domestic violence in Turkmenistan, nor are there mechanisms and national programmes to prevent domestic violence. All this shows that women cannot expect support from anywhere and it is safer for them to be silent and tolerate the violence. Governmental agencies do not provide any statistics related to women’s health and gender equality. As noted on the UN Women’s website: “As of December 2020, only 20.6% of indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available, with gaps in key areas in Turkmenistan.”  Freedom House has consistently ranked the country at or near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since its independence. And in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkmenistan as 179th out of 180 countries surveyed, only ahead of North Korea. Lastly, civic space in Turkmenistan is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. The country lacks anything resembling real civil society and the conditions for it to emerge.   Take action We cannot turn our backs on the people of Turkmenistan.The European Union, its Member States as well as other international bodies must not sit idly by in the face of such egregious attacks on women’s rights. The European Union in particular must uphold its values and use all tools and policies it has at its disposal, including the EU Gender Action Plan, to support Turkmen women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must take urgent action, raise our voices, and put pressure on the Turkmen state, so that Turkmen women are not forced to suffer in silence.   Credit illustration: Martina Koleva  

IWD Poland
news item

| 17 February 2022

Civil society asks Council of the EU to act on rule of law collapse in Poland

As the EU Council prepares to discuss the rule of law situation in Poland at its upcoming meeting on 22 February 2022, FIDH and other civil society organisations from Poland and across the EU draw EU ministers’ attention to recent, alarming developments, pointing to a severe and steady decline in the respect for EU values in the country. These include attempts to undermine judicial independence, refusal to comply with European court’s decisions, attacks on media freedom, and restrictions on civic space. Rule of law deficits are having negative impacts on human rights, particularly on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and on LGBTI people’s rights. In the letter, the signatory organisations urge EU governments to address these developments at next week’s meeting, to adopt recommendations that Polish authorities will have to implement within a clear time frame and/or to hold a vote to establish that the EU core values of respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights have been seriously breached in Poland. Poland has been under scrutiny by the Council since December 2017, when the European Commission triggered the procedure laid down in Article 7.1 TEU on account of the "clear risk of a serious breach" of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU in the country. Despite the many actions undertaken by EU institutions since 2017, the Polish government has continued to systematically infringe upon EU standards and ignore warnings and decisions from the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Immediate, effective, and concerted action by the Council is vital to halt attacks against Article 2 principles and reaffirm that rule of law and human rights violations have no place in the EU.

IWD Poland
news_item

| 15 February 2022

Civil society asks Council of the EU to act on rule of law collapse in Poland

As the EU Council prepares to discuss the rule of law situation in Poland at its upcoming meeting on 22 February 2022, FIDH and other civil society organisations from Poland and across the EU draw EU ministers’ attention to recent, alarming developments, pointing to a severe and steady decline in the respect for EU values in the country. These include attempts to undermine judicial independence, refusal to comply with European court’s decisions, attacks on media freedom, and restrictions on civic space. Rule of law deficits are having negative impacts on human rights, particularly on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and on LGBTI people’s rights. In the letter, the signatory organisations urge EU governments to address these developments at next week’s meeting, to adopt recommendations that Polish authorities will have to implement within a clear time frame and/or to hold a vote to establish that the EU core values of respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights have been seriously breached in Poland. Poland has been under scrutiny by the Council since December 2017, when the European Commission triggered the procedure laid down in Article 7.1 TEU on account of the "clear risk of a serious breach" of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU in the country. Despite the many actions undertaken by EU institutions since 2017, the Polish government has continued to systematically infringe upon EU standards and ignore warnings and decisions from the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Immediate, effective, and concerted action by the Council is vital to halt attacks against Article 2 principles and reaffirm that rule of law and human rights violations have no place in the EU.

MEPs Poland support
news item

| 08 March 2022

Regression on Abortion Access Harms Women in Poland

26 January 2022 – One year after the ruling of Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal banning access to abortion in almost all circumstances took effect, its devastating impact on the lives of women and all those in need of abortion care continues. The ruling has increased the extreme barriers women seeking access to abortion face and has had tragic consequences for many of them and their families. Since the ruling took effect on 27 January 2021, more than 1000 women have turned to the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to vindicate their rights, challenging Poland’s highly restrictive abortion law and seeking justice. These groundbreaking cases mark the first direct challenges to be filed before the European Court against Poland’s abortion law and the 2020 Constitutional Tribunal ruling. The applicants claim that the Polish abortion law causes them grave harm and violates their rights to privacy and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment. The Court is expected to begin ruling on some of these cases: K.B. v. Poland and 3 other applications; K.C. v. Poland and 3 other applications; and A.L.- B. v. Poland and 3 other applications. Nine leading international human rights organizations have filed third-party interventions to the European Court of Human Rights in these cases, including Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN), Women Enabled International, Women’s Link Worldwide, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The interventions provide evidence and analysis drawing on international human rights law, comparative European law and guidelines from the World Health Organization. They outline the profound implications that highly restrictive abortion laws have on the lives and health of women and girls of reproductive age.   Restrictive abortion laws such as Poland’s are contrary to international and European human rights standards and public health guidelines. They compromise women’s freedom, dignity, health, and lives. Our organizations’ interventions seek to highlight critical human rights aspects of such restrictive laws, and we are proud to support efforts to hold Poland accountable for these ongoing human rights violations, the organizations said.      Background Poland has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws. Together with Malta, it is one of only two European Union Member States that has not legalized abortion on request or broad social grounds. In Poland, abortion is only permitted in situations of risk to the life or health of a pregnant woman, or if a pregnancy results from rape. In practice, however, it is almost impossible for those eligible for a legal abortion to obtain one. Every year thousands of women leave Poland to access abortion care in other European countries, while others import medical abortion pills or seek extra-legal abortion in Poland. Polish women, particularly those in difficult socio-economic situations, have to depend on the crucial help from civil society organizations, with often limited resources. On 22 October 2020, Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion on grounds of “severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’ life” was unconstitutional. The ruling followed a case filed by members of the Polish Parliament and formally supported by the Prosecutor General. The ruling came into force on 27 January 2021. Both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission have found that the Constitutional Tribunal does not meet fair trial requirements due to its lack of independence from the legislative and the executive powers. The ruling eliminated one of the only remaining legal grounds for abortion under Poland’s highly restrictive law and its entry into force means that there is now effectively a near-total ban on abortion in Poland. Previously, over 90 percent of the approximately 1,000 legal abortions annually performed in Poland were on this ground. The ruling came as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions made travel for abortion care prohibitively difficult and costly. It  spurred the country’s largest public protests in decades, led by women human rights defenders. Activists and women’s rights organizations report that the ruling is having a significant chilling effect as medical professionals fear repercussions even in situations where abortion remains legal. Women human rights defenders and civil society organizations advocating for the ruling to be overturned and for reform of Poland’s abortion law have faced threats of violence and several protestors have been prosecuted.   Read the third-party submissions here. For more information about the cases filed by 12 Polish women see: K.B. v. Poland and 3 other applications K.C. v. Poland and 3 other applications A.L.- B. v. Poland and 3 other applications   For more information on the developments following the Tribunal’s ruling see e.g.: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_7070   For more information, please contact: For the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, Irene Donadio: [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90, Twitter: @ippfen

MEPs Poland support
news_item

| 26 January 2022

Regression on Abortion Access Harms Women in Poland

26 January 2022 – One year after the ruling of Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal banning access to abortion in almost all circumstances took effect, its devastating impact on the lives of women and all those in need of abortion care continues. The ruling has increased the extreme barriers women seeking access to abortion face and has had tragic consequences for many of them and their families. Since the ruling took effect on 27 January 2021, more than 1000 women have turned to the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to vindicate their rights, challenging Poland’s highly restrictive abortion law and seeking justice. These groundbreaking cases mark the first direct challenges to be filed before the European Court against Poland’s abortion law and the 2020 Constitutional Tribunal ruling. The applicants claim that the Polish abortion law causes them grave harm and violates their rights to privacy and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment. The Court is expected to begin ruling on some of these cases: K.B. v. Poland and 3 other applications; K.C. v. Poland and 3 other applications; and A.L.- B. v. Poland and 3 other applications. Nine leading international human rights organizations have filed third-party interventions to the European Court of Human Rights in these cases, including Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN), Women Enabled International, Women’s Link Worldwide, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The interventions provide evidence and analysis drawing on international human rights law, comparative European law and guidelines from the World Health Organization. They outline the profound implications that highly restrictive abortion laws have on the lives and health of women and girls of reproductive age.   Restrictive abortion laws such as Poland’s are contrary to international and European human rights standards and public health guidelines. They compromise women’s freedom, dignity, health, and lives. Our organizations’ interventions seek to highlight critical human rights aspects of such restrictive laws, and we are proud to support efforts to hold Poland accountable for these ongoing human rights violations, the organizations said.      Background Poland has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws. Together with Malta, it is one of only two European Union Member States that has not legalized abortion on request or broad social grounds. In Poland, abortion is only permitted in situations of risk to the life or health of a pregnant woman, or if a pregnancy results from rape. In practice, however, it is almost impossible for those eligible for a legal abortion to obtain one. Every year thousands of women leave Poland to access abortion care in other European countries, while others import medical abortion pills or seek extra-legal abortion in Poland. Polish women, particularly those in difficult socio-economic situations, have to depend on the crucial help from civil society organizations, with often limited resources. On 22 October 2020, Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion on grounds of “severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’ life” was unconstitutional. The ruling followed a case filed by members of the Polish Parliament and formally supported by the Prosecutor General. The ruling came into force on 27 January 2021. Both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission have found that the Constitutional Tribunal does not meet fair trial requirements due to its lack of independence from the legislative and the executive powers. The ruling eliminated one of the only remaining legal grounds for abortion under Poland’s highly restrictive law and its entry into force means that there is now effectively a near-total ban on abortion in Poland. Previously, over 90 percent of the approximately 1,000 legal abortions annually performed in Poland were on this ground. The ruling came as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions made travel for abortion care prohibitively difficult and costly. It  spurred the country’s largest public protests in decades, led by women human rights defenders. Activists and women’s rights organizations report that the ruling is having a significant chilling effect as medical professionals fear repercussions even in situations where abortion remains legal. Women human rights defenders and civil society organizations advocating for the ruling to be overturned and for reform of Poland’s abortion law have faced threats of violence and several protestors have been prosecuted.   Read the third-party submissions here. For more information about the cases filed by 12 Polish women see: K.B. v. Poland and 3 other applications K.C. v. Poland and 3 other applications A.L.- B. v. Poland and 3 other applications   For more information on the developments following the Tribunal’s ruling see e.g.: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_7070   For more information, please contact: For the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, Irene Donadio: [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90, Twitter: @ippfen

Poland
news item

| 06 January 2022

Polish Parliament votes on anti-rights bills

Reaction to vote to establish the Polish Institute of Family and Demography IPPF EN is appalled to learn that the lower chamber of the Polish parliament has today given the green light to establish the Polish Institute of Family and Demography. This seemingly innocuous initiative is anything but. It would allow for increased and unnecessary data processing on people’s reproductive health and expanded interference by the state in people’s family lives.  Prosecutorial powers would be granted to the Institute’s President, allowing them to interfere in or initiate court and administrative proceedings that fall under the scope of family or children’s rights, such as parental or adoption rights. Polish activists fear this could be used against LGBTQI families by allowing the President to apply for the removal of parental rights from LGBT parents, for example. One look at the track-record of the current presidential-hopeful indicates this fear may be founded: it is Bartłomiej Wróblewski, a PiS MP who submitted the motion to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that led to the virtual ban on abortion.  The Institute would also be invested with expanded data-processing powers. It would be allowed to “process any information, including personal data, necessary for the performance of its statutory tasks,” although particular attention would be paid to data on marriage and fertility. Again, activists fear that this is an attempt to introduce a system of surveillance on people’s private lives, particularly as it coincides with a recent initiative by the Health Ministry to establish a pregnancy registry, which expands data-gathering on pregnant people. If deemed ‘necessary’ by the Institute, it could process data on pregnancies, contraceptive access, emergency contraception and pregnancy loss. Activists point to how the latter has been used with devastating effect against women in countries with draconian abortion laws, where women who have suffered miscarriage are accused of accessing abortion, and prosecuted. 

Poland
news_item

| 02 December 2021

Polish Parliament votes on anti-rights bills

Reaction to vote to establish the Polish Institute of Family and Demography IPPF EN is appalled to learn that the lower chamber of the Polish parliament has today given the green light to establish the Polish Institute of Family and Demography. This seemingly innocuous initiative is anything but. It would allow for increased and unnecessary data processing on people’s reproductive health and expanded interference by the state in people’s family lives.  Prosecutorial powers would be granted to the Institute’s President, allowing them to interfere in or initiate court and administrative proceedings that fall under the scope of family or children’s rights, such as parental or adoption rights. Polish activists fear this could be used against LGBTQI families by allowing the President to apply for the removal of parental rights from LGBT parents, for example. One look at the track-record of the current presidential-hopeful indicates this fear may be founded: it is Bartłomiej Wróblewski, a PiS MP who submitted the motion to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that led to the virtual ban on abortion.  The Institute would also be invested with expanded data-processing powers. It would be allowed to “process any information, including personal data, necessary for the performance of its statutory tasks,” although particular attention would be paid to data on marriage and fertility. Again, activists fear that this is an attempt to introduce a system of surveillance on people’s private lives, particularly as it coincides with a recent initiative by the Health Ministry to establish a pregnancy registry, which expands data-gathering on pregnant people. If deemed ‘necessary’ by the Institute, it could process data on pregnancies, contraceptive access, emergency contraception and pregnancy loss. Activists point to how the latter has been used with devastating effect against women in countries with draconian abortion laws, where women who have suffered miscarriage are accused of accessing abortion, and prosecuted. 

Polish flag
news item

| 08 March 2022

Poland debates prison terms for abortion in new blow to women’s rights

Joint press release by IPPF EN and Civicus.  The Polish Parliament is set to discuss an anti-abortion bill from a religious ultra conservative group to jail women who access abortion and criminalize anyone who helps them do so, including family members, friends and doctors.   The new anti-abortion bill - proposed by Pro - The right to life Foundation - who also put forward a bill two years ago that would criminalize anyone who informs young people about sexuality and relationships - will be discussed in the Polish Parliament's lower chamber during a sitting on 1-2 December. The initiative comes one month after a woman named Izabela - died as a result of Poland’s restrictive abortion law, triggering widespread protests.  The bill aims to enshrine extremist doctrine in law by establishing harsh prison terms in cases of abortion. Despite Izabela’s death and the recent protest about the current virtual abortion ban, the bill’s backers would support imprisoning women for up to 25 years for abortion and 5 years in case of miscarriage - considered ‘manslaughter’. The wording of the proposal could even lead to life imprisonment if the pregnant woman were charged with ‘aggravated murder’.  In addition to introducing prison sentences, the proposal would remove the remaining, extremely limited, exceptions to the ban which currently allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and endangerment of the women’s life or health. This would further paralyse doctors whose hands are already tied in cases of severe foetal impairment. “This is a nightmare scenario for women in Poland because the new bill bears striking similarity to El Salvador’s abortion ban, under which women are incarcerated if they have abortions or miscarriages. If Poland takes such a cruel decision it would simply devastate women and families’ lives,” says Irene Donadio of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network. It will be relatively straightforward for the Law and Justice party (PiS) and its allies to secure the adoption of the new bill at any time because they control the lower chamber of the parliament and have influence over the Constitutional Tribunal.* In another shocking development, ahead of the Parliamentary sitting, Poland’s health ministry has announced that the government may force all health care professionals to register every pregnancy.  “It’s obvious that this is a well orchestrated plan to put pregnant women under surveillance and then to prosecute them if they decide not to continue a pregnancy or even if they suffer a miscarriage. This insidious strategy will force doctors to inform on their patients and will create terror among pregnant women and those who try to help them to access vital care” continues Donadio.  The Polish government's support of these initiatives has put it on a collision course with the EU. Human rights activists hope the EU will continue to apply pressure ahead of an upcoming state of play on the rule of law in Poland. “We call on the Council of the EU to hold the Polish government accountable for violations of the rule of law and of women’s human rights. The General Affairs Council meeting on December 14 will set the tone for next steps with regards to Poland. We urge the EU Member States not to shy away from taking steps to make sure breaches of the rule of law and vast human rights abuses are not brushed under the carpet,” says Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Researcher Europe, Central Asia, MENA for CIVICUSMonitor.   Press Contact: International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, in Brussels, Irene Donadio (English, Italian, French, Spanish): +32-491-071-93-90; or [email protected] Twitter: @ippfen   Notes to the editor: * The Law and Justice party (PiS) and its allies have an absolute majority in the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament. This means that the bill could be adopted on a fast track even if all the parties in opposition try to stop it or amend it in the Senate (where the ruling party does not have the majority). The opposition could delay the process for a month in the Senate but they cannot stop the adoption in a second reading in the lower chamber. If the parliamentarians of the ruling party want to disassociate themselves from this new attack on women’s rights they can flout the rule of law and send the bill to the politicized Constitutional Tribunal, having it adopted via the judiciary as they did last year.  For more information on abortion care in Poland, see IPPF EN’s resources, including stories of women human rights defenders. This new anti-abortion bill mirrors a proposal in 2016 that was met with massive public protests, forcing the government to abandon it. At that time, even the Polish Catholic Church witheld its support for the proposal because it would have jailed women for accessing abortion. Yet, in spite of the obvious lack of support both from the public and bishops, this latest ultra conservative bill is much harsher, mandating considerably higher prison sentences.  A bill proposing the creation of the "Family and Demography Institute" will be discussed during the same sitting of the lower chamber on December 1-2. The Institute is expected to be led by right wing fundamentalist parliamentarian Bartłomiej Wróblewski, the author of the motion to the pseudo - Constitutional Tribunal which has resulted in the current virtual ban on abortion. The head of the institute will be able to intervene as a prosecutor in court proceedings and in administrative processes regarding divorce or adoption filings (could decide over whether or not to grant a divorce and will be able to bring cases against LGBT parents - demanding that they be deprived of their parental rights). The head of the Institute will have access to data collected by any entity in Poland regarding pregnancies and miscarriages. The goal of the institute is to increase Poland's birth rate.

Polish flag
news_item

| 29 November 2021

Poland debates prison terms for abortion in new blow to women’s rights

Joint press release by IPPF EN and Civicus.  The Polish Parliament is set to discuss an anti-abortion bill from a religious ultra conservative group to jail women who access abortion and criminalize anyone who helps them do so, including family members, friends and doctors.   The new anti-abortion bill - proposed by Pro - The right to life Foundation - who also put forward a bill two years ago that would criminalize anyone who informs young people about sexuality and relationships - will be discussed in the Polish Parliament's lower chamber during a sitting on 1-2 December. The initiative comes one month after a woman named Izabela - died as a result of Poland’s restrictive abortion law, triggering widespread protests.  The bill aims to enshrine extremist doctrine in law by establishing harsh prison terms in cases of abortion. Despite Izabela’s death and the recent protest about the current virtual abortion ban, the bill’s backers would support imprisoning women for up to 25 years for abortion and 5 years in case of miscarriage - considered ‘manslaughter’. The wording of the proposal could even lead to life imprisonment if the pregnant woman were charged with ‘aggravated murder’.  In addition to introducing prison sentences, the proposal would remove the remaining, extremely limited, exceptions to the ban which currently allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and endangerment of the women’s life or health. This would further paralyse doctors whose hands are already tied in cases of severe foetal impairment. “This is a nightmare scenario for women in Poland because the new bill bears striking similarity to El Salvador’s abortion ban, under which women are incarcerated if they have abortions or miscarriages. If Poland takes such a cruel decision it would simply devastate women and families’ lives,” says Irene Donadio of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network. It will be relatively straightforward for the Law and Justice party (PiS) and its allies to secure the adoption of the new bill at any time because they control the lower chamber of the parliament and have influence over the Constitutional Tribunal.* In another shocking development, ahead of the Parliamentary sitting, Poland’s health ministry has announced that the government may force all health care professionals to register every pregnancy.  “It’s obvious that this is a well orchestrated plan to put pregnant women under surveillance and then to prosecute them if they decide not to continue a pregnancy or even if they suffer a miscarriage. This insidious strategy will force doctors to inform on their patients and will create terror among pregnant women and those who try to help them to access vital care” continues Donadio.  The Polish government's support of these initiatives has put it on a collision course with the EU. Human rights activists hope the EU will continue to apply pressure ahead of an upcoming state of play on the rule of law in Poland. “We call on the Council of the EU to hold the Polish government accountable for violations of the rule of law and of women’s human rights. The General Affairs Council meeting on December 14 will set the tone for next steps with regards to Poland. We urge the EU Member States not to shy away from taking steps to make sure breaches of the rule of law and vast human rights abuses are not brushed under the carpet,” says Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Researcher Europe, Central Asia, MENA for CIVICUSMonitor.   Press Contact: International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, in Brussels, Irene Donadio (English, Italian, French, Spanish): +32-491-071-93-90; or [email protected] Twitter: @ippfen   Notes to the editor: * The Law and Justice party (PiS) and its allies have an absolute majority in the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament. This means that the bill could be adopted on a fast track even if all the parties in opposition try to stop it or amend it in the Senate (where the ruling party does not have the majority). The opposition could delay the process for a month in the Senate but they cannot stop the adoption in a second reading in the lower chamber. If the parliamentarians of the ruling party want to disassociate themselves from this new attack on women’s rights they can flout the rule of law and send the bill to the politicized Constitutional Tribunal, having it adopted via the judiciary as they did last year.  For more information on abortion care in Poland, see IPPF EN’s resources, including stories of women human rights defenders. This new anti-abortion bill mirrors a proposal in 2016 that was met with massive public protests, forcing the government to abandon it. At that time, even the Polish Catholic Church witheld its support for the proposal because it would have jailed women for accessing abortion. Yet, in spite of the obvious lack of support both from the public and bishops, this latest ultra conservative bill is much harsher, mandating considerably higher prison sentences.  A bill proposing the creation of the "Family and Demography Institute" will be discussed during the same sitting of the lower chamber on December 1-2. The Institute is expected to be led by right wing fundamentalist parliamentarian Bartłomiej Wróblewski, the author of the motion to the pseudo - Constitutional Tribunal which has resulted in the current virtual ban on abortion. The head of the institute will be able to intervene as a prosecutor in court proceedings and in administrative processes regarding divorce or adoption filings (could decide over whether or not to grant a divorce and will be able to bring cases against LGBT parents - demanding that they be deprived of their parental rights). The head of the Institute will have access to data collected by any entity in Poland regarding pregnancies and miscarriages. The goal of the institute is to increase Poland's birth rate.

Spain flag
news item

| 19 May 2022

Spain debates plans for paid menstrual leave and wider abortion access

Currently, abortion care is available during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy based on a woman's indication.  Up to 22 weeks, abortion is permitted in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman or foetus. Thereafter, abortion care is only accessible in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life or extremely serious and incurable illness. Nonetheless, access to dignified and safe care remains an obstacle course especially for those already marginalized by systemic discrimination. But there is hope. This week, the government discussed a progressive law which gives autonomy to girls aged 16 to 18 to access abortion care without parental consent; regulates denial of care based on personal beliefs; and scraps medically unnecessary 3-day waiting periods delaying access to abortion. If approved, the law would also extend financing for contraceptive care. The draft law also guarantees up to 3 days of menstrual leave for painful periods; eliminates VAT on menstrual products; and asks that schools and prisons offer free menstrual products.  

Spain flag
news_item

| 19 May 2022

Spain debates plans for paid menstrual leave and wider abortion access

Currently, abortion care is available during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy based on a woman's indication.  Up to 22 weeks, abortion is permitted in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman or foetus. Thereafter, abortion care is only accessible in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life or extremely serious and incurable illness. Nonetheless, access to dignified and safe care remains an obstacle course especially for those already marginalized by systemic discrimination. But there is hope. This week, the government discussed a progressive law which gives autonomy to girls aged 16 to 18 to access abortion care without parental consent; regulates denial of care based on personal beliefs; and scraps medically unnecessary 3-day waiting periods delaying access to abortion. If approved, the law would also extend financing for contraceptive care. The draft law also guarantees up to 3 days of menstrual leave for painful periods; eliminates VAT on menstrual products; and asks that schools and prisons offer free menstrual products.  

choice
news item

| 12 May 2022

Turkmenistan ramps up policing of women’s bodies

Turkmen people were hoping that their newly appointed president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, would pursue a more progressive path than his father, but they were sorely mistaken. Since April 2022, the government has taken policing over women’s bodies to a whole new level: imposing a virtual ban on abortion care, enforcing a ban on a range of beauty services, forbidding women from sitting in the front seat of private cars and prohibiting male taxi drivers from offering rides to women. Abortion care access has been restricted from 12 to just five weeks. Overnight, the government made public a law that had originally been passed in 2015, without any public consultation, meaning that it was practically passed and published in secret. This law effectively bans abortion care, as most people don't even know they are pregnant at 5 weeks. The result is agonising for women, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, while others will have no choice but to go through the system and seek permission for care from a medical committee which delays critical healthcare and puts them at greater risk – with no guarantee that care will be provided. The committee can decide to approve care beyond the 5 weeks on social gounds, very linked to the family situation (eg allowed in case the husband dies, in case of divorce, but also in cases of rape). Women who are not able to access abortion in these circumstances might be forced to find a doctor who can provide the procedure illegally, often at huge costs. The terrifying truth is that women and girls living in countries with restrictive abortion laws are more likely to die because pregnancy is a major medical event where having choice over the care you receive is vital. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the long held anti-rights agenda of the government, but this latest raft of restrictions are particularly brutal.  They stem from the government’s idea of nation-building, which hinges on harmful gender stereotypes that value women only as mothers and symbols of purity, beauty, and modesty. But make no mistake, at the core this is about control. Women are only valued for their capacity to give birth, raise healthy patriots and thus preserve traditional family values. The reproductive bullying of women is supported by state media propaganda encouraging women to have eight children and by the lack of relationship and sexuality education. Furthermore, 50% of women are denied access to contraception, and a recent study found that nearly 60% of women feel unable to make autonomous decisions on issues like healthcare, contraception, and giving consent to sex.   Turkmenistan failing women and girls on multiple fronts with the world watching Turkmenistan has an abysmal human rights track record with women being treated as second class citizens. With bodily autonomy being steadily stripped away, women and girls are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, virginity tests, forced marriages and prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and obtaining a driver’s licenses.  According to UNICEF and TürkmenStat (MICS), 59% of women in Turkmenistan aged 15-49 say that a husband has the right to hit his wife. There is no law against domestic violence in Turkmenistan, nor are there mechanisms and national programmes to prevent domestic violence. All this shows that women cannot expect support from anywhere and it is safer for them to be silent and tolerate the violence. Governmental agencies do not provide any statistics related to women’s health and gender equality. As noted on the UN Women’s website: “As of December 2020, only 20.6% of indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available, with gaps in key areas in Turkmenistan.”  Freedom House has consistently ranked the country at or near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since its independence. And in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkmenistan as 179th out of 180 countries surveyed, only ahead of North Korea. Lastly, civic space in Turkmenistan is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. The country lacks anything resembling real civil society and the conditions for it to emerge.   Take action We cannot turn our backs on the people of Turkmenistan.The European Union, its Member States as well as other international bodies must not sit idly by in the face of such egregious attacks on women’s rights. The European Union in particular must uphold its values and use all tools and policies it has at its disposal, including the EU Gender Action Plan, to support Turkmen women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must take urgent action, raise our voices, and put pressure on the Turkmen state, so that Turkmen women are not forced to suffer in silence.   Credit illustration: Martina Koleva  

choice
news_item

| 12 May 2022

Turkmenistan ramps up policing of women’s bodies

Turkmen people were hoping that their newly appointed president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, would pursue a more progressive path than his father, but they were sorely mistaken. Since April 2022, the government has taken policing over women’s bodies to a whole new level: imposing a virtual ban on abortion care, enforcing a ban on a range of beauty services, forbidding women from sitting in the front seat of private cars and prohibiting male taxi drivers from offering rides to women. Abortion care access has been restricted from 12 to just five weeks. Overnight, the government made public a law that had originally been passed in 2015, without any public consultation, meaning that it was practically passed and published in secret. This law effectively bans abortion care, as most people don't even know they are pregnant at 5 weeks. The result is agonising for women, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, while others will have no choice but to go through the system and seek permission for care from a medical committee which delays critical healthcare and puts them at greater risk – with no guarantee that care will be provided. The committee can decide to approve care beyond the 5 weeks on social gounds, very linked to the family situation (eg allowed in case the husband dies, in case of divorce, but also in cases of rape). Women who are not able to access abortion in these circumstances might be forced to find a doctor who can provide the procedure illegally, often at huge costs. The terrifying truth is that women and girls living in countries with restrictive abortion laws are more likely to die because pregnancy is a major medical event where having choice over the care you receive is vital. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the long held anti-rights agenda of the government, but this latest raft of restrictions are particularly brutal.  They stem from the government’s idea of nation-building, which hinges on harmful gender stereotypes that value women only as mothers and symbols of purity, beauty, and modesty. But make no mistake, at the core this is about control. Women are only valued for their capacity to give birth, raise healthy patriots and thus preserve traditional family values. The reproductive bullying of women is supported by state media propaganda encouraging women to have eight children and by the lack of relationship and sexuality education. Furthermore, 50% of women are denied access to contraception, and a recent study found that nearly 60% of women feel unable to make autonomous decisions on issues like healthcare, contraception, and giving consent to sex.   Turkmenistan failing women and girls on multiple fronts with the world watching Turkmenistan has an abysmal human rights track record with women being treated as second class citizens. With bodily autonomy being steadily stripped away, women and girls are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, virginity tests, forced marriages and prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and obtaining a driver’s licenses.  According to UNICEF and TürkmenStat (MICS), 59% of women in Turkmenistan aged 15-49 say that a husband has the right to hit his wife. There is no law against domestic violence in Turkmenistan, nor are there mechanisms and national programmes to prevent domestic violence. All this shows that women cannot expect support from anywhere and it is safer for them to be silent and tolerate the violence. Governmental agencies do not provide any statistics related to women’s health and gender equality. As noted on the UN Women’s website: “As of December 2020, only 20.6% of indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available, with gaps in key areas in Turkmenistan.”  Freedom House has consistently ranked the country at or near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since its independence. And in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkmenistan as 179th out of 180 countries surveyed, only ahead of North Korea. Lastly, civic space in Turkmenistan is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. The country lacks anything resembling real civil society and the conditions for it to emerge.   Take action We cannot turn our backs on the people of Turkmenistan.The European Union, its Member States as well as other international bodies must not sit idly by in the face of such egregious attacks on women’s rights. The European Union in particular must uphold its values and use all tools and policies it has at its disposal, including the EU Gender Action Plan, to support Turkmen women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must take urgent action, raise our voices, and put pressure on the Turkmen state, so that Turkmen women are not forced to suffer in silence.   Credit illustration: Martina Koleva  

IWD Poland
news item

| 17 February 2022

Civil society asks Council of the EU to act on rule of law collapse in Poland

As the EU Council prepares to discuss the rule of law situation in Poland at its upcoming meeting on 22 February 2022, FIDH and other civil society organisations from Poland and across the EU draw EU ministers’ attention to recent, alarming developments, pointing to a severe and steady decline in the respect for EU values in the country. These include attempts to undermine judicial independence, refusal to comply with European court’s decisions, attacks on media freedom, and restrictions on civic space. Rule of law deficits are having negative impacts on human rights, particularly on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and on LGBTI people’s rights. In the letter, the signatory organisations urge EU governments to address these developments at next week’s meeting, to adopt recommendations that Polish authorities will have to implement within a clear time frame and/or to hold a vote to establish that the EU core values of respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights have been seriously breached in Poland. Poland has been under scrutiny by the Council since December 2017, when the European Commission triggered the procedure laid down in Article 7.1 TEU on account of the "clear risk of a serious breach" of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU in the country. Despite the many actions undertaken by EU institutions since 2017, the Polish government has continued to systematically infringe upon EU standards and ignore warnings and decisions from the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Immediate, effective, and concerted action by the Council is vital to halt attacks against Article 2 principles and reaffirm that rule of law and human rights violations have no place in the EU.

IWD Poland
news_item

| 15 February 2022

Civil society asks Council of the EU to act on rule of law collapse in Poland

As the EU Council prepares to discuss the rule of law situation in Poland at its upcoming meeting on 22 February 2022, FIDH and other civil society organisations from Poland and across the EU draw EU ministers’ attention to recent, alarming developments, pointing to a severe and steady decline in the respect for EU values in the country. These include attempts to undermine judicial independence, refusal to comply with European court’s decisions, attacks on media freedom, and restrictions on civic space. Rule of law deficits are having negative impacts on human rights, particularly on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and on LGBTI people’s rights. In the letter, the signatory organisations urge EU governments to address these developments at next week’s meeting, to adopt recommendations that Polish authorities will have to implement within a clear time frame and/or to hold a vote to establish that the EU core values of respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights have been seriously breached in Poland. Poland has been under scrutiny by the Council since December 2017, when the European Commission triggered the procedure laid down in Article 7.1 TEU on account of the "clear risk of a serious breach" of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU in the country. Despite the many actions undertaken by EU institutions since 2017, the Polish government has continued to systematically infringe upon EU standards and ignore warnings and decisions from the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Immediate, effective, and concerted action by the Council is vital to halt attacks against Article 2 principles and reaffirm that rule of law and human rights violations have no place in the EU.

MEPs Poland support
news item

| 08 March 2022

Regression on Abortion Access Harms Women in Poland

26 January 2022 – One year after the ruling of Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal banning access to abortion in almost all circumstances took effect, its devastating impact on the lives of women and all those in need of abortion care continues. The ruling has increased the extreme barriers women seeking access to abortion face and has had tragic consequences for many of them and their families. Since the ruling took effect on 27 January 2021, more than 1000 women have turned to the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to vindicate their rights, challenging Poland’s highly restrictive abortion law and seeking justice. These groundbreaking cases mark the first direct challenges to be filed before the European Court against Poland’s abortion law and the 2020 Constitutional Tribunal ruling. The applicants claim that the Polish abortion law causes them grave harm and violates their rights to privacy and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment. The Court is expected to begin ruling on some of these cases: K.B. v. Poland and 3 other applications; K.C. v. Poland and 3 other applications; and A.L.- B. v. Poland and 3 other applications. Nine leading international human rights organizations have filed third-party interventions to the European Court of Human Rights in these cases, including Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN), Women Enabled International, Women’s Link Worldwide, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The interventions provide evidence and analysis drawing on international human rights law, comparative European law and guidelines from the World Health Organization. They outline the profound implications that highly restrictive abortion laws have on the lives and health of women and girls of reproductive age.   Restrictive abortion laws such as Poland’s are contrary to international and European human rights standards and public health guidelines. They compromise women’s freedom, dignity, health, and lives. Our organizations’ interventions seek to highlight critical human rights aspects of such restrictive laws, and we are proud to support efforts to hold Poland accountable for these ongoing human rights violations, the organizations said.      Background Poland has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws. Together with Malta, it is one of only two European Union Member States that has not legalized abortion on request or broad social grounds. In Poland, abortion is only permitted in situations of risk to the life or health of a pregnant woman, or if a pregnancy results from rape. In practice, however, it is almost impossible for those eligible for a legal abortion to obtain one. Every year thousands of women leave Poland to access abortion care in other European countries, while others import medical abortion pills or seek extra-legal abortion in Poland. Polish women, particularly those in difficult socio-economic situations, have to depend on the crucial help from civil society organizations, with often limited resources. On 22 October 2020, Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion on grounds of “severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’ life” was unconstitutional. The ruling followed a case filed by members of the Polish Parliament and formally supported by the Prosecutor General. The ruling came into force on 27 January 2021. Both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission have found that the Constitutional Tribunal does not meet fair trial requirements due to its lack of independence from the legislative and the executive powers. The ruling eliminated one of the only remaining legal grounds for abortion under Poland’s highly restrictive law and its entry into force means that there is now effectively a near-total ban on abortion in Poland. Previously, over 90 percent of the approximately 1,000 legal abortions annually performed in Poland were on this ground. The ruling came as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions made travel for abortion care prohibitively difficult and costly. It  spurred the country’s largest public protests in decades, led by women human rights defenders. Activists and women’s rights organizations report that the ruling is having a significant chilling effect as medical professionals fear repercussions even in situations where abortion remains legal. Women human rights defenders and civil society organizations advocating for the ruling to be overturned and for reform of Poland’s abortion law have faced threats of violence and several protestors have been prosecuted.   Read the third-party submissions here. For more information about the cases filed by 12 Polish women see: K.B. v. Poland and 3 other applications K.C. v. Poland and 3 other applications A.L.- B. v. Poland and 3 other applications   For more information on the developments following the Tribunal’s ruling see e.g.: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_7070   For more information, please contact: For the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, Irene Donadio: [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90, Twitter: @ippfen

MEPs Poland support
news_item

| 26 January 2022

Regression on Abortion Access Harms Women in Poland

26 January 2022 – One year after the ruling of Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal banning access to abortion in almost all circumstances took effect, its devastating impact on the lives of women and all those in need of abortion care continues. The ruling has increased the extreme barriers women seeking access to abortion face and has had tragic consequences for many of them and their families. Since the ruling took effect on 27 January 2021, more than 1000 women have turned to the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to vindicate their rights, challenging Poland’s highly restrictive abortion law and seeking justice. These groundbreaking cases mark the first direct challenges to be filed before the European Court against Poland’s abortion law and the 2020 Constitutional Tribunal ruling. The applicants claim that the Polish abortion law causes them grave harm and violates their rights to privacy and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment. The Court is expected to begin ruling on some of these cases: K.B. v. Poland and 3 other applications; K.C. v. Poland and 3 other applications; and A.L.- B. v. Poland and 3 other applications. Nine leading international human rights organizations have filed third-party interventions to the European Court of Human Rights in these cases, including Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN), Women Enabled International, Women’s Link Worldwide, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The interventions provide evidence and analysis drawing on international human rights law, comparative European law and guidelines from the World Health Organization. They outline the profound implications that highly restrictive abortion laws have on the lives and health of women and girls of reproductive age.   Restrictive abortion laws such as Poland’s are contrary to international and European human rights standards and public health guidelines. They compromise women’s freedom, dignity, health, and lives. Our organizations’ interventions seek to highlight critical human rights aspects of such restrictive laws, and we are proud to support efforts to hold Poland accountable for these ongoing human rights violations, the organizations said.      Background Poland has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws. Together with Malta, it is one of only two European Union Member States that has not legalized abortion on request or broad social grounds. In Poland, abortion is only permitted in situations of risk to the life or health of a pregnant woman, or if a pregnancy results from rape. In practice, however, it is almost impossible for those eligible for a legal abortion to obtain one. Every year thousands of women leave Poland to access abortion care in other European countries, while others import medical abortion pills or seek extra-legal abortion in Poland. Polish women, particularly those in difficult socio-economic situations, have to depend on the crucial help from civil society organizations, with often limited resources. On 22 October 2020, Poland’s discredited Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion on grounds of “severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’ life” was unconstitutional. The ruling followed a case filed by members of the Polish Parliament and formally supported by the Prosecutor General. The ruling came into force on 27 January 2021. Both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission have found that the Constitutional Tribunal does not meet fair trial requirements due to its lack of independence from the legislative and the executive powers. The ruling eliminated one of the only remaining legal grounds for abortion under Poland’s highly restrictive law and its entry into force means that there is now effectively a near-total ban on abortion in Poland. Previously, over 90 percent of the approximately 1,000 legal abortions annually performed in Poland were on this ground. The ruling came as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions made travel for abortion care prohibitively difficult and costly. It  spurred the country’s largest public protests in decades, led by women human rights defenders. Activists and women’s rights organizations report that the ruling is having a significant chilling effect as medical professionals fear repercussions even in situations where abortion remains legal. Women human rights defenders and civil society organizations advocating for the ruling to be overturned and for reform of Poland’s abortion law have faced threats of violence and several protestors have been prosecuted.   Read the third-party submissions here. For more information about the cases filed by 12 Polish women see: K.B. v. Poland and 3 other applications K.C. v. Poland and 3 other applications A.L.- B. v. Poland and 3 other applications   For more information on the developments following the Tribunal’s ruling see e.g.: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_7070   For more information, please contact: For the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, Irene Donadio: [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90, Twitter: @ippfen

Poland
news item

| 06 January 2022

Polish Parliament votes on anti-rights bills

Reaction to vote to establish the Polish Institute of Family and Demography IPPF EN is appalled to learn that the lower chamber of the Polish parliament has today given the green light to establish the Polish Institute of Family and Demography. This seemingly innocuous initiative is anything but. It would allow for increased and unnecessary data processing on people’s reproductive health and expanded interference by the state in people’s family lives.  Prosecutorial powers would be granted to the Institute’s President, allowing them to interfere in or initiate court and administrative proceedings that fall under the scope of family or children’s rights, such as parental or adoption rights. Polish activists fear this could be used against LGBTQI families by allowing the President to apply for the removal of parental rights from LGBT parents, for example. One look at the track-record of the current presidential-hopeful indicates this fear may be founded: it is Bartłomiej Wróblewski, a PiS MP who submitted the motion to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that led to the virtual ban on abortion.  The Institute would also be invested with expanded data-processing powers. It would be allowed to “process any information, including personal data, necessary for the performance of its statutory tasks,” although particular attention would be paid to data on marriage and fertility. Again, activists fear that this is an attempt to introduce a system of surveillance on people’s private lives, particularly as it coincides with a recent initiative by the Health Ministry to establish a pregnancy registry, which expands data-gathering on pregnant people. If deemed ‘necessary’ by the Institute, it could process data on pregnancies, contraceptive access, emergency contraception and pregnancy loss. Activists point to how the latter has been used with devastating effect against women in countries with draconian abortion laws, where women who have suffered miscarriage are accused of accessing abortion, and prosecuted. 

Poland
news_item

| 02 December 2021

Polish Parliament votes on anti-rights bills

Reaction to vote to establish the Polish Institute of Family and Demography IPPF EN is appalled to learn that the lower chamber of the Polish parliament has today given the green light to establish the Polish Institute of Family and Demography. This seemingly innocuous initiative is anything but. It would allow for increased and unnecessary data processing on people’s reproductive health and expanded interference by the state in people’s family lives.  Prosecutorial powers would be granted to the Institute’s President, allowing them to interfere in or initiate court and administrative proceedings that fall under the scope of family or children’s rights, such as parental or adoption rights. Polish activists fear this could be used against LGBTQI families by allowing the President to apply for the removal of parental rights from LGBT parents, for example. One look at the track-record of the current presidential-hopeful indicates this fear may be founded: it is Bartłomiej Wróblewski, a PiS MP who submitted the motion to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that led to the virtual ban on abortion.  The Institute would also be invested with expanded data-processing powers. It would be allowed to “process any information, including personal data, necessary for the performance of its statutory tasks,” although particular attention would be paid to data on marriage and fertility. Again, activists fear that this is an attempt to introduce a system of surveillance on people’s private lives, particularly as it coincides with a recent initiative by the Health Ministry to establish a pregnancy registry, which expands data-gathering on pregnant people. If deemed ‘necessary’ by the Institute, it could process data on pregnancies, contraceptive access, emergency contraception and pregnancy loss. Activists point to how the latter has been used with devastating effect against women in countries with draconian abortion laws, where women who have suffered miscarriage are accused of accessing abortion, and prosecuted. 

Polish flag
news item

| 08 March 2022

Poland debates prison terms for abortion in new blow to women’s rights

Joint press release by IPPF EN and Civicus.  The Polish Parliament is set to discuss an anti-abortion bill from a religious ultra conservative group to jail women who access abortion and criminalize anyone who helps them do so, including family members, friends and doctors.   The new anti-abortion bill - proposed by Pro - The right to life Foundation - who also put forward a bill two years ago that would criminalize anyone who informs young people about sexuality and relationships - will be discussed in the Polish Parliament's lower chamber during a sitting on 1-2 December. The initiative comes one month after a woman named Izabela - died as a result of Poland’s restrictive abortion law, triggering widespread protests.  The bill aims to enshrine extremist doctrine in law by establishing harsh prison terms in cases of abortion. Despite Izabela’s death and the recent protest about the current virtual abortion ban, the bill’s backers would support imprisoning women for up to 25 years for abortion and 5 years in case of miscarriage - considered ‘manslaughter’. The wording of the proposal could even lead to life imprisonment if the pregnant woman were charged with ‘aggravated murder’.  In addition to introducing prison sentences, the proposal would remove the remaining, extremely limited, exceptions to the ban which currently allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and endangerment of the women’s life or health. This would further paralyse doctors whose hands are already tied in cases of severe foetal impairment. “This is a nightmare scenario for women in Poland because the new bill bears striking similarity to El Salvador’s abortion ban, under which women are incarcerated if they have abortions or miscarriages. If Poland takes such a cruel decision it would simply devastate women and families’ lives,” says Irene Donadio of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network. It will be relatively straightforward for the Law and Justice party (PiS) and its allies to secure the adoption of the new bill at any time because they control the lower chamber of the parliament and have influence over the Constitutional Tribunal.* In another shocking development, ahead of the Parliamentary sitting, Poland’s health ministry has announced that the government may force all health care professionals to register every pregnancy.  “It’s obvious that this is a well orchestrated plan to put pregnant women under surveillance and then to prosecute them if they decide not to continue a pregnancy or even if they suffer a miscarriage. This insidious strategy will force doctors to inform on their patients and will create terror among pregnant women and those who try to help them to access vital care” continues Donadio.  The Polish government's support of these initiatives has put it on a collision course with the EU. Human rights activists hope the EU will continue to apply pressure ahead of an upcoming state of play on the rule of law in Poland. “We call on the Council of the EU to hold the Polish government accountable for violations of the rule of law and of women’s human rights. The General Affairs Council meeting on December 14 will set the tone for next steps with regards to Poland. We urge the EU Member States not to shy away from taking steps to make sure breaches of the rule of law and vast human rights abuses are not brushed under the carpet,” says Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Researcher Europe, Central Asia, MENA for CIVICUSMonitor.   Press Contact: International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, in Brussels, Irene Donadio (English, Italian, French, Spanish): +32-491-071-93-90; or [email protected] Twitter: @ippfen   Notes to the editor: * The Law and Justice party (PiS) and its allies have an absolute majority in the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament. This means that the bill could be adopted on a fast track even if all the parties in opposition try to stop it or amend it in the Senate (where the ruling party does not have the majority). The opposition could delay the process for a month in the Senate but they cannot stop the adoption in a second reading in the lower chamber. If the parliamentarians of the ruling party want to disassociate themselves from this new attack on women’s rights they can flout the rule of law and send the bill to the politicized Constitutional Tribunal, having it adopted via the judiciary as they did last year.  For more information on abortion care in Poland, see IPPF EN’s resources, including stories of women human rights defenders. This new anti-abortion bill mirrors a proposal in 2016 that was met with massive public protests, forcing the government to abandon it. At that time, even the Polish Catholic Church witheld its support for the proposal because it would have jailed women for accessing abortion. Yet, in spite of the obvious lack of support both from the public and bishops, this latest ultra conservative bill is much harsher, mandating considerably higher prison sentences.  A bill proposing the creation of the "Family and Demography Institute" will be discussed during the same sitting of the lower chamber on December 1-2. The Institute is expected to be led by right wing fundamentalist parliamentarian Bartłomiej Wróblewski, the author of the motion to the pseudo - Constitutional Tribunal which has resulted in the current virtual ban on abortion. The head of the institute will be able to intervene as a prosecutor in court proceedings and in administrative processes regarding divorce or adoption filings (could decide over whether or not to grant a divorce and will be able to bring cases against LGBT parents - demanding that they be deprived of their parental rights). The head of the Institute will have access to data collected by any entity in Poland regarding pregnancies and miscarriages. The goal of the institute is to increase Poland's birth rate.

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| 29 November 2021

Poland debates prison terms for abortion in new blow to women’s rights

Joint press release by IPPF EN and Civicus.  The Polish Parliament is set to discuss an anti-abortion bill from a religious ultra conservative group to jail women who access abortion and criminalize anyone who helps them do so, including family members, friends and doctors.   The new anti-abortion bill - proposed by Pro - The right to life Foundation - who also put forward a bill two years ago that would criminalize anyone who informs young people about sexuality and relationships - will be discussed in the Polish Parliament's lower chamber during a sitting on 1-2 December. The initiative comes one month after a woman named Izabela - died as a result of Poland’s restrictive abortion law, triggering widespread protests.  The bill aims to enshrine extremist doctrine in law by establishing harsh prison terms in cases of abortion. Despite Izabela’s death and the recent protest about the current virtual abortion ban, the bill’s backers would support imprisoning women for up to 25 years for abortion and 5 years in case of miscarriage - considered ‘manslaughter’. The wording of the proposal could even lead to life imprisonment if the pregnant woman were charged with ‘aggravated murder’.  In addition to introducing prison sentences, the proposal would remove the remaining, extremely limited, exceptions to the ban which currently allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and endangerment of the women’s life or health. This would further paralyse doctors whose hands are already tied in cases of severe foetal impairment. “This is a nightmare scenario for women in Poland because the new bill bears striking similarity to El Salvador’s abortion ban, under which women are incarcerated if they have abortions or miscarriages. If Poland takes such a cruel decision it would simply devastate women and families’ lives,” says Irene Donadio of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network. It will be relatively straightforward for the Law and Justice party (PiS) and its allies to secure the adoption of the new bill at any time because they control the lower chamber of the parliament and have influence over the Constitutional Tribunal.* In another shocking development, ahead of the Parliamentary sitting, Poland’s health ministry has announced that the government may force all health care professionals to register every pregnancy.  “It’s obvious that this is a well orchestrated plan to put pregnant women under surveillance and then to prosecute them if they decide not to continue a pregnancy or even if they suffer a miscarriage. This insidious strategy will force doctors to inform on their patients and will create terror among pregnant women and those who try to help them to access vital care” continues Donadio.  The Polish government's support of these initiatives has put it on a collision course with the EU. Human rights activists hope the EU will continue to apply pressure ahead of an upcoming state of play on the rule of law in Poland. “We call on the Council of the EU to hold the Polish government accountable for violations of the rule of law and of women’s human rights. The General Affairs Council meeting on December 14 will set the tone for next steps with regards to Poland. We urge the EU Member States not to shy away from taking steps to make sure breaches of the rule of law and vast human rights abuses are not brushed under the carpet,” says Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Researcher Europe, Central Asia, MENA for CIVICUSMonitor.   Press Contact: International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, in Brussels, Irene Donadio (English, Italian, French, Spanish): +32-491-071-93-90; or [email protected] Twitter: @ippfen   Notes to the editor: * The Law and Justice party (PiS) and its allies have an absolute majority in the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament. This means that the bill could be adopted on a fast track even if all the parties in opposition try to stop it or amend it in the Senate (where the ruling party does not have the majority). The opposition could delay the process for a month in the Senate but they cannot stop the adoption in a second reading in the lower chamber. If the parliamentarians of the ruling party want to disassociate themselves from this new attack on women’s rights they can flout the rule of law and send the bill to the politicized Constitutional Tribunal, having it adopted via the judiciary as they did last year.  For more information on abortion care in Poland, see IPPF EN’s resources, including stories of women human rights defenders. This new anti-abortion bill mirrors a proposal in 2016 that was met with massive public protests, forcing the government to abandon it. At that time, even the Polish Catholic Church witheld its support for the proposal because it would have jailed women for accessing abortion. Yet, in spite of the obvious lack of support both from the public and bishops, this latest ultra conservative bill is much harsher, mandating considerably higher prison sentences.  A bill proposing the creation of the "Family and Demography Institute" will be discussed during the same sitting of the lower chamber on December 1-2. The Institute is expected to be led by right wing fundamentalist parliamentarian Bartłomiej Wróblewski, the author of the motion to the pseudo - Constitutional Tribunal which has resulted in the current virtual ban on abortion. The head of the institute will be able to intervene as a prosecutor in court proceedings and in administrative processes regarding divorce or adoption filings (could decide over whether or not to grant a divorce and will be able to bring cases against LGBT parents - demanding that they be deprived of their parental rights). The head of the Institute will have access to data collected by any entity in Poland regarding pregnancies and miscarriages. The goal of the institute is to increase Poland's birth rate.