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The Polish authorities need to take adequate measures to ensure access to lawful abortion

Rule 9
Strasbourg 11/02/2020
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The Polish authorities need to take adequate measures to ensure access to lawful abortion

The Commissioner published today her submission to the Committee of Ministers in the context of the supervision of the execution of the judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights in three cases against Poland.

Each of these cases relates to one of the three different situations where a legal abortion is possible under Polish law. The case of Tysiąc v. Poland concerned the existence of a risk to the pregnant woman’s health. The case R. R. v. Poland concerned the possible malformation of the foetus as legal ground for abortion. P. and S. v. Poland concerned the failure of the authorities to provide reliable information on the conditions and procedures for accessing lawful termination of a pregnancy resulting from rape. In all three cases, the Court has found violations of the right to respect for private and family life, while in the latter two cases it has also found violations of the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Commissioner underscores that thirteen years have passed since the adoption of the first judgment, and the Polish authorities should urgently take adequate measures to ensure effective access to safe and legal abortion throughout the country. In particular, they should improve access to reliable information on the relevant conditions and procedures and address important shortcomings in the legal and institutional framework that allows health professionals to refuse abortion care on conscience-based grounds. The Polish authorities should also monitor and publish the number, availability and geographical distribution of health professionals who are prepared to perform safe and legal abortion, as well as the data on the use of the conscience clause to refuse lawful abortion.

The Commissioner considers that the continuing lack of action in these areas seriously hampers the practical enjoyment by women and girls in Poland of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, even in those very limited situations where abortion is legal. In this connection, she also recommends that abortion should be made legal on a woman’s request in early pregnancy, and thereafter throughout pregnancy to protect women’s health and lives and ensure freedom from ill-treatment.

This is the first submission by the Commissioner since the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe amended its Rule 9 in 2017 for the supervision of the execution of judgments and of the terms of friendly settlements.