At present abortion on social grounds is banned. According to the law abortion is legal in the following cases only:
1. when pregnancy constitutes a threat to life or to the health of the pregnant woman, which is confirmed by the doctor other than that involved in the abortion,
2. prenatal examination indicate heavy, irreversible damage of the embryo or incurable illness threatening the life,
3. there is justified suspicion, confirmed by a prosecutor, that the pregnancy is a result of an illegal act.
The doctor who performs illegal abortion is subject to the punishment of up to three years of prison.
Legal restrictions to abortion
In 1993 significant changes concerning women’s reproductive rights were introduced in Poland. The Polish Parliament introduced the anti-abortion law called the Act on family planning, human embryo protection and conditions of permissibility of abortion according to which abortions on social grounds were delegalized. It meant that women in difficult life conditions, including financial situation, could not legally have abortions. The anti-abortion law was liberalized shortly in 1996 (enforced in 1997) to allow abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy if "a woman is in hard life conditions or in difficult personal situation". The law got restricted again in 1997 (enforced in 1998) and this provision regarding abortion on social grounds was withdrawn by the Parliament elected in 1997 resulting from the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal. The Constitutional Tribunal stated that abortion on social grounds is unconstitutional and justified its decision on the basis that Poland is a democratic state of law what for the members of CT implies the protection of life at its every stage. The Polish Constitution includes the provision of legal protection of life to every human being (Art. 38). This decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, its justification and consequences was a real shock for women�s rights and health advocates as well as for many prominent lawyers.
Discriminatory consequences of the anti-abortion law
This restrictive law was introduced without any transitional period, without any mechanisms that would allow women to more easily adjust to these changes and avoid dangers associated with these restrictions. Abortion on social grounds was legal in Poland since 1956 and it was broadly utilized by women as a method of birth control in result of poor family planning policies of the Polish state. The state did not introduced simultaneously with restrictions any policies that would promote and subsidize any family planning programmes.
This dramatic change affected seriously many women and families, particularly those poor and uneducated ones. The law did not stop abortions. It pushed women to use back-street abortions or travel abroad. These effects of anti-abortion regulations on women’s life and health were described in the Federation for Women and Family Planning three reports (1994,1996,2000).
Last report: The antiabortion law in Poland - the functioning, social effects, attitudes and behaviors (2000)