A 14-year-old disabled girl who was raped by her own uncle has been denied an abortion in Poland, sparking outrage in the conservative country.
The Catholic nation has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, and doctors can even refuse to provide them on ethical grounds, a law that has been criticized by women’s rights activists.
Termination of pregnancy is legal only when the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act such as rape or incest, or when the health of the woman is in danger.
Even though the underage girl was clearly the victim of abuse, two separate hospitals in her region of Podlasie refused to treat her or even tell her where she could have a legal abortion, a violation of the law.
Pictured: A woman takes part in a protest in 2020 against tougher abortion laws in Poland
The young girl, who did not understand that she was pregnant, was taken by her aunt to doctors who treated them “in a brutal and inhuman way”, she claimed.
The aunt had even provided documents from a prosecutor indicating that an alleged rape had taken place and that an abortion would be legal, but the doctors still refused them.
They would have been told, “Not here, go away. We don’t know where. It’s not our business.
The aunt contacted the procreation organization Federa who helped bring the girl to Warsaw where a safe and successful abortion was performed.
But the initial refusal by local doctors sparked outrage in the devoutly Christian nation where 92% of its population is Catholic.
Federa said in a statement: “The doctors in Warsaw could not understand the conduct of the doctors in Podlasie. No empathy is an understatement.
“We have no words of outrage at such treatment.”
The girl, who did not understand she was pregnant, was taken by her aunt to doctors who treated them ‘in a brutal and inhuman way’, she claimed (file image)
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health confirmed that local hospitals had failed to comply with the law and an investigation has been launched.
Wojciech Andrusiewicz told TVN: “Such an abortion must be performed or they must indicate a place where such an abortion can be performed, so the hospital acted against the legal provisions.”
Dr Artur Plachta, a gynecologist and member of the Supreme Medical Chamber, told Fakty: ‘I’m ashamed of them because they didn’t help the child.
“This child suffered two tragedies: she was raped by someone, even the closest person, and now she received a third ‘gift’ from her fellow doctors: she was not helped.”
The Patients’ Rights Commissioner also said that while individual doctors can invoke the “conscience clause” and refuse to perform an abortion, a whole hospital cannot.
Conservative values have played an increasing role in public life in Poland since the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015 on a promise to uphold what it sees as the nation’s traditional Catholic character.
Around 100,000 people took to the streets in 2020 to protest draconian new abortion laws
Opposition politicians are now calling for reform of abortion laws which were tightened in 2020, amidst much protest.
Then even abortions for malformed fetuses were banned and 100,000 protesters took to the streets against the harsh measures.
MP Aleksandra Gajewska said: “This draconian law and this climate of intimidation, falsely understood as a defense of life, which only applies to the fetus and in no way applies to the mother, has allowed Doctors at Podlasie hospitals to refuse to help a 14-year-old girl.’
Katarzyna Kotula, MP for the leftist Lewica party, said: “The conscience clause is a barbaric and inhumane law repeatedly exploited by doctors. It should be abolished.
Paweł Krutul, an MP from the same party from Podlasie, added: “Young girls are suffering because of your stupid laws. See what fate you have prepared for Polish women. It’s a shame.
Donald Tusk, the former European Council president turned opposition leader in Poland, also lambasted the government over the scandal.
He said pregnancies are now in the hands of “prosecutors or ruling party politicians”.