Advocacy statements

UPR Statement on Poland

  • Date / 2022
  • Location / Poland
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Universal Periodic Review


Humanists International

UN Human Rights Council, 52nd session (27 February – 4 April 2023)

Item 6: UPR Outcome of Poland

Thank you Mr. President.

We regret that the government of Poland has chosen to reject the 17 recommendations it has received on the subject of sexual and reproductive health and rights.[1]

Since 1993, and the additional restrictions implemented in 2020, the State has continued to undermine the right of women to access essential health services, including abortion care.

Many doctors, operating in a climate of paranoia, are refusing to perform abortions even when technically legal. In one case, a 14 year old victim of rape was denied the right to end her pregnancy. Two separate doctors had refused to treat her on grounds of ‘religious conscience’.[2]  Under current law, doctors who invoke the ‘conscience clause’ are not obliged to make a referral to an alternative practitioner.[3]

The State is also persecuting members of civil society who have stepped in to facilitate access to safe abortions. Last week, the activist Justyna Wydrzynska was convicted for helping a pregnant woman to access abortion pills.[4] Ordo Iuris, a Catholic fundamentalist group, was allowed to intervene in the case in defense of “the rights of the fetus,” even though a fetus clearly does not have rights or a legal personality.[5]

These cases demonstrate the extent to which our legislative and justice systems are abused in order to instrumentalise religion and the rights of women for political gain.

During the UPR, the Polish delegation referred to the “special legal protection” enjoyed by pregnant women in Poland.[6]

We remind the Council that, since October 2020, at least six women have died because they were deprived of life-saving abortions.[7] The State must respect the right of women to make informed decisions about their own bodies.  We call on Poland to take the necessary regulatory steps to ensure that uncompromised access to abortion is guaranteed whenever requested.


[1] 114.118 – 114.123; 114.126 – 114.131; 114.133 – 114.136, 114.143,

[2] https://www.dw.com/en/poland-outcry-over-abortion-law/a-64586531; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/30/polish-health-minister-appalled-girl-14-struggled-to-get-abortion-after

[3] https://rm.coe.int/commdh-2020-3-rule-9-submission-in-3-cases-v-poland-en/16809ba102

[4] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/03/poland-conviction-of-activist-prosecuted-for-aiding-an-abortion-offers-chilling-snapshot-of-future/

[5] https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/07/13/poland-end-prosecution-abortion-activist

[6] Annex to Poland’s position on the Recommendations presented in the 41st session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 15 November 2022.

[7] https://www.ippf.org/featured-perspective/denying-access-abortion-femicide

Suggested academic reference

'UPR Statement on Poland', Humanists International

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