Home » EXCLUSIVE; UN Urges Poland to Acquit Woman-Human Rights Defender

EXCLUSIVE; UN Urges Poland to Acquit Woman-Human Rights Defender

by Narges Mohammadi

GENEVA/ UN experts today strongly condemned the sentencing of Justyna Wydrzyńska; a woman human rights defender in Poland. She was found guilty of assisting in the process of obtaining an abortion and demanded her acquittal from all charges.

In 2020, in the context of her activism; Justyna supported a victim of gender-based violence; in obtaining termination of her pregnancy through medication. The activist has appealed the decision and is requesting her acquittal.

“We are outraged by this sentencing,” the experts said.

The UN experts urged competent judicial authorities in Poland to acquit Wydryńska from all charges.

Wydryńska is one of the founders of an activist collective that has campaigned against abortion stigma in Poland since 2006. The collective offers training and counseling on how to obtain a safe abortion.

“The charges against Ms. Wydrzyńska appear to be intended to punish her work as a human rights defender. To instill fear among those who are supporting Polish women in accessing safe abortion care, and already working in a hostile environment,” they said.

Poland’s Abortion Legislation

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 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 experts warned that the 2020 ruling has a chilling effect as medical professionals fear repercussions even in situations where abortion remains legal. “This exacerbates health risks for women seeking an abortion,” they said.

While the mere possession or self-management of abortion-inducing medicines is not a crime in Poland, any person or doctor who helps pregnant women to obtain an abortion outside the limited grounds permitted by law is liable to sanctions of up to three years in prison.

“The activism of individuals like Ms. Wydrzyńska often results in the only chance to access a safe abortion in Poland where services to terminate a pregnancy are, in practice, made unavailable by the various restrictions in place,” the UN experts said.

Final Statement 

They reiterated a statement issued on World Contraception Day and International Safe Abortion Day 2022. They called on states to decriminalize abortion and protect sexual and reproductive health rights.

Nearly a year ago, the UN experts expressed their concerns to the Polish Government regarding the charges against Justyna Wydrzyńska.

“The Government of Poland must drop the charges against Ms. Wydrzyńska. And then revise its legislation to decriminalize abortion. Plus, ensure access to essential medicines required for safe self-management of abortions; and cease targeting human rights defenders in Poland. Especially, those advocating against the country’s restrictive abortion law,” they said.

Source: OHCHR

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