A Warsaw court on Tuesday convicted a women’s rights activist of helping to provide abortion pills to a victim of domestic violence in Poland and sentenced her to eight months of community service.
Justyna Wydrzyńska’s case has been closely watched by human rights activists, who believe it will set a precedent in the country with Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws.
International Planned Parenthood Federation, a leading reproductive rights organization, said it was “shocked” that Widrzyska would now have a criminal record for helping a woman who was in an abusive relationship.
Spokeswoman Irene Donadio said, “We are deeply saddened by this decision and outraged by the entire process. To condemn one person’s act of empathy and compassion for another human being is unimaginable.”
Prosecutors had charged Wydrzyńska with “facilitating an abortion”, a crime that could be punished with up to three years in prison.
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According to Polish media reports, Wiederzyska will appeal the case. She is the co-founder of the Abortion Dream Team, an organization that provides information to women seeking abortions.
Poland, a predominantly Catholic country, forbids abortion in almost all cases, with the only exceptions being when a woman’s life or health is in danger or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
For years abortion was permitted in the case of fetuses with congenital defects. However, that exception was struck down by the country’s constitutional court in 2020.
In practice, Polish women order abortion pills or travel to Germany, the Czech Republic and other countries where the procedure is permitted. While giving yourself abortion pills is legal, helping someone else is not.
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