In a groundbreaking ruling, the European Court of Human Rights has declared that Poland’s abortion legislation in 2020 violated the fundamental rights of a woman who was compelled to seek an abortion abroad. The case, which drew international attention, underscores the pressing need for comprehensive reforms in Poland’s reproductive rights laws.
The court found that the legislation, preventing the applicant from accessing an abortion following a diagnosis of trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome) in her fetus, did not meet the legal threshold of “inhuman or degrading treatment.” However, it did determine a breach of her right to privacy and family life, as safeguarded by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Poland has been directed to compensate the applicant €16,004 (£13,800) as a consequence of this landmark decision.
Geneva Council strongly condemns Poland’s violation of the woman’s rights in this significant abortion case. This ruling exposes the urgency of reforming laws that disproportionately affect women’s reproductive choices and access to healthcare.
The woman involved in the case, identified as ML, became pregnant in 2020 and sought an abortion after a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome during the 14th week of pregnancy. Tragically, a last-minute ruling by Poland’s constitutional tribunal criminalizing abortions on “eugenic grounds” prevented her scheduled abortion in a Warsaw hospital.
ML, forced to travel abroad, faced emotional distress and financial burden due to the sudden change in legislation. “In her rapidly deteriorating mental state, ML had to organize a trip abroad within a few days, leaving her family and loved ones in Poland,” her lawyers said. “For an abortion, which only a few days earlier would have been performed for free in a nearby hospital, she had to travel to the Netherlands. She spent more than 5,500 zloty (£1,100).”
The Geneva Council acknowledges the European Court of Human Rights’ emphasis on the principle of the rule of law and expresses concern over the “lawfulness” of Poland’s constitutional tribunal, as indicated by the court’s decision.
As Poland undergoes a change in leadership, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk assuming office, the Geneva Council calls for a swift and comprehensive liberalization of abortion laws. The organization stresses the necessity of ensuring access to legal abortion irrespective of the circumstances, going beyond a mere return to the legal situation before the ruling of the Polish constitutional court.
The Geneva Council urges the international community to join in condemning human rights violations in reproductive healthcare and advocates for the protection of women’s rights on a global scale.