EU Accession Treaty: Catholics Call for Protection of Poland’s Abortion Policies
The Roman Catholic Church in Poland is demanding that the treaty allowing its accession to the European Union (EU) contain language stipulating Poland’s freedom to set its own abortion policy. According to The Associated Press, Poland sent a declaration to Brussels saying that, “no EU treaties or annexes to those treaties would hamper the Polish government in regulating moral issues or those concerning the protection of human life.” Conservative Poles are taking precautions, in light of an EU resolution calling all new member states and east European states to legalize abortion. Conservatives have also expressed outrage at EU proposals seeking to provide abortion services in developing countries through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Along with Ireland, Poland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, according to Agence France Presse. Current legislation permits abortion only when the woman’s health or life is in danger, the fetus deformed, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, the Polish minister dealing with gender equality, stated at a conference that “the shameful law has only negative consequences,” according to AFP. Approximately 80,000-200,000 illegal abortions—many performed under dangerous conditions—occur every year in Poland. People who perform these back-alley abortions are sentenced to two to three years in prison if convicted, reported AFP.
Last month, Polish women’s groups demanded a loosening of the country’s 1993 anti-abortion law, marking the 10th anniversary of the legislation. Ninety percent of Poles describe themselves as Roman Catholics. The Associated Press reports that recent surveys suggest the majority of Poles favor relaxing and liberalizing the law.
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Media Resources: Associated Press 01/31/03; Feminist News Wire 01/09/03; The Guardian 01/30/03