On march 14th, 2023 Ms.Justyna Wydrzynska, a women’s rights defender was sentenced to eight months community service for helping a women in need to obtain abortion. Justyna is member of the Abortion Dream Team, an abortion rights organization in Poland co-founded by Wydrzynska, claimed that it assisted 44,000 abortions in 2022. In 2020, she helped a woman in an abusive relationship to access abortion pills and the woman’s husband confiscated the pills and reported Justyna to the police. “Abortion Dream Team said Wydrzyńska provided the pills to a woman named Ania, who was married to “an abusive man” who threatened to report a kidnapping if she travelled to Germany with her 3-year-old son for an abortion”.
This is the first case in Europe where an abortion rights advocate was convicted for helping someone to do abortion. Her case marks the first in Europe in which an activist is prosecuted and found guilty of helping someone access abortion care. This conviction sets a dangerous precedent in the EU by scaring women rights activists to silence with the threat of possible penalties.
Since a Constitutional Court ruling in 2020, Poland’s abortion legislation has been among the most restrictive in Europe. Abortions are only permitted on two grounds: when the pregnancy endangers the life or health of the pregnant woman and when it is the result of a rape or incest. Even in those situations, multiple barriers limit women’s access to abortion in practice, particularly those from low-income and rural communities.
The country’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has pledged to tighten abortion laws since coming into power in 2015, concentrating on removing the right of mothers to abort pregnancies in the case of a fatal fetal abnormality.
Although parliamentary opposition prevented the party from amending the law in October 2020, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal – the country’s highest court – ruled it was unconstitutional for women to terminate pregnancies in the case of fetal abnormalities, saying the exception constituted “eugenic practices.”
According to Amnesty, this 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.”
In her Tuesday statement, Amnesty’s Callamard said Wydrzyńska’s conviction “marks a depressing low in the repression of reproductive rights in Poland,” adding the activist’s lawyers plan to appeal the judgment – which is not final.
Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (Ciudadanos, Spain), Renew Europe Coordinator in the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, said: "Women's rights defenders in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and all across the European Union do crucial work for all Europeans. Justyna Wydrzynska's sentence today opens a precedent of enormous risks for all of them. Their job should be recognised, made visible and protected, not punished with fines or prison. This sentence should not be possible in a European Union based on democracy and the defence of human rights. We stand today with Justyna Wydrzynska and with all those women fighting every day for our rights and freedoms."