While walking through the streets of Polish cities, it is not uncommon to see, on a bench, a bus stop or a parking meter, stickers with the following mention: “Do you need an abortion? Call the number… ” Bitterly humorously, these stickers often display an unflattering photograph of the face of the anti-abortion struggle in Poland, the young Catholic fundamentalist Kaja Godek. A sign that a year after the Polish Constitutional Court made the voluntary termination of pregnancy almost illegal, parallel networks of mutual aid between women are booming.
On October 21, 2020, the country’s highest legal body, tightly controlled by the conservative national majority of the PiS (Law and Justice) party, ruled unconstitutional abortion for fetal malformation. In a country where the legislation concerning abortion was already one of the most restrictive in Europe, this criterion concerned more than 95% of the 1,000 legal abortions performed each year. This decision had sparked a protest movement of unprecedented scale across the country.
A year later, associations helping women are overwhelmed. In one year, the Federation for Women and Family Planning, a pioneer in the struggle for women’s rights in Poland, responded to almost 8,100 phone calls and more than 5,000 emails. This is three times more than in previous years. “Our interlocutors are often in a state of deep psychological distress, underlines Krystyna Kacpura, President of Federa. They don’t know what to do. The new legislation has dealt a blow to prenatal medicine. Sometimes tests are ordered too late and doctors are in a constant ethical dilemma. ”
Multiplication of informal mutual aid networks
To get around this wall, informal abortion support networks have multiplied, and feminist NGOs have never been so solicited. Particularly active, the “aunts”, Polish volunteers living in neighboring countries, help women who wish to go abroad to have an abortion. This is the case of “Ciocia Czesia” (“Aunt Czesia”) for the Czech Republic, “Ciocia Basia” for Germany and “Ciocia Wienia” for Austria.
The “aunts” alone have helped nearly a thousand women to have abortions this year. The Czech Republic is a particularly popular destination, due to the relatively moderate cost of interventions: 2,000 zlotys (420 euros) on average. “Our help consists in providing a maximum of reliable information, explains Marta Machalowska, of the “Ciocia Czesia” network. Above all, we want to prevent women from resorting to unscrupulous and dishonest abortive industry channels. We have our lists of trusted clinics and hospitals. “
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One year after the virtual ban on abortion in Poland, “abortion without borders” is thriving