The statement by the two organizations was delivered during the adoption of Poland’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report. The UPR is a process that examines the human rights performance of all UN Member States once every five years and aims to hold States’ accountable for their human rights violations. Nina Sankari, Vice President of Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation, delivered the statement by video intervention.
In the statement, Sankari detailed the devastating impact that Poland’s systematic attempts to ban access to abortion care have had on the lives, health and rights of women in Poland, including the fact that at least six women have died since 2020 – when additional restrictions on abortion were imposed by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal – because they were deprived of the right to terminate their pregnancies.
She spoke about how many doctors are operating in a “climate of paranoia” and are refusing to carry out abortions even when technically legal, while the Polish authorities continue to obstruct the remaining routes to accessing safe abortions by persecuting members of civil society who have stepped in to provide information and support to individuals seeking to terminate their pregnancies. This includes the case of Justyna Wydrzynska, who on 14 March was sentenced to 8 months of community service for supporting a victim of gender-based violence to self-manage an abortion. Her case is the first time an activist has been convicted for aiding an abortion in Europe.
Sankari concluded by calling on the Polish government to respect the right of women to make informed decisions about their own bodies and to guarantee the unfettered right to access abortion on request.
During the UPR, the Polish delegation accepted no responsibility for the human rights violations stemming from its criminalisation of abortion, and argued instead that it had “autonomy in the area of domestic legislation concerning the permissibility of abortion.” The Polish government rejected outright all of the recommendations it had received from States during its UPR on the subject of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Photo by Zuza Gałczyńska on Unsplash