Polish protests erupt over restrictive abortion laws after pregnant woman dies

Protests have erupted across Poland as thousands of citizens voice their disapproval for the nation’s highly restrictive abortion laws, following the sepsis-related death of a five-month pregnant woman. Demonstrators marched to the health ministry headquarters in Warsaw on Wednesday, chanting slogans such as “Stop killing us” and holding placards stating “Hell for women.” The death of the woman, Dorota Lalik, has been cited as evidence of the detrimental impact these strict regulations have on pregnant women.

Poland’s abortion legislation, recognised as some of the most stringent in Europe, has instigated numerous mass protests in recent years. As elections are scheduled for October or November, many liberal Poles are fuelled by anti-government sentiments. In 2021, the tightening of abortion laws was implemented by Mateusz Morawiecki’s nationalist government when they enforced a constitutional court decision to prohibit terminations for pregnancies with fetal defects.

Abortion rights activists have reported at least five cases where pregnant women have died due to the restrictive abortion laws. In response to questions about the consequences of such legislation, Prime Minister Morawiecki has cautioned against “politicising” Lalik’s case.

Before the Law and Justice party came to power in 2015, Poland’s abortion laws were already among the most restrictive in Europe. Presently, women are only allowed abortions in cases of rape or incest, or if their life or health is in danger. Government authorities have emphasised that the law was not the cause of the woman’s death, as hospitals have a legal obligation to perform such procedures under life-threatening conditions.

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Women’s rights advocates argue that the law, in conjunction with the overall conservative atmosphere, produces a chilling effect on the situation. They also assert that medical professionals who refuse to perform abortions on moral grounds have exacerbated the problem.

Prosecutors have launched an investigation into Dorota Lalik’s death, along with two other cases involving pregnant women who died due to sepsis after the death of the fetus they were carrying. In Pszczyna in 2021, a 30-year-old pregnant woman tragically passed away, with her family blaming doctors’ “wait-and-see attitude.” The following year, another woman, age 37, died in Czestochowa, after losing twin 12-week-old fetuses.

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Matthew Coles

Matthew is a British journalist with a unique flair in reporting about the latest news and events happening in Europe. Matthew focuses on producing well-researched, balanced, and narrative-driven content related to both national and regional interests across various European countries. He is passionate about discovering the diverse cultures found within Europe and showcasing them through his insightful articles.

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