Compulsory Pregnancy in Poland

I have been doing a lot of research on abortion and family planning in Poland for my independent research project.  I had always known that Poland does not guarantee sexual and reproductive rights, but I was shocked to learn just how restrictive the laws really are.

Take this scenario: a woman in Poland, let’s say her name is Anna, has unprotected sex with her male partner because she does not have access to contraceptives (as the majority of people in Poland do not).  She went to a high school that did not teach about sexual health (because schools are not obligated to do this according to the law) and she grew up in a house with Catholic parents who stressed the benefits of abstinence until marriage (95 percent of people in Poland are Catholic).  After having unprotected sex, Anna talks to a friend who suggests she take emergency contraception so she does not get pregnant.  In order to do this, she needs to make an appointment which a doctor to get a prescription.  The doctor is busy and cannot meet until three days later.  Anna cannot meet with a doctor, therefore cannot get emergency contraception.  A few weeks later, Anna realizes she is pregnant.  Because she was not raped, the fetus is not deformed, and her life is not in danger, she is not able to have an abortion.  She cannot afford to fly to another country to have an abortion, therefore she is forced to carry the pregnancy to term.

This scenario seems extreme but is actually very common in Poland.  There is hardly any accurate, unbiased information about sexual and reproductive health for children and young adults.  Schools and churches are not acting as safe spaces.  Although some might be lucky and live in a home that understands the importance of sexual education, this is not the norm.  There is also a lack of information about contraceptives.  Natural family planning is the method of choice because the Church has said that it is the only acceptable form of family planning.  Abortion is also heavily restricted to do an almost-ban on the procedure.

Poland has what seems to be state-mandated compulsory pregnancy.  This ties in very closely with the idea of Polish nationalism and the Polish mother (domestic, feminine woman that stays at home, has many children, and raises the family).  Women are responsible for producing the next generation and keeping the Polish legacy alive.  In the eyes of the church and government, compulsory pregnancy helps to maintaing the nation’s population by increasing live births, but the rate of live births is actually decreasing.  It is crucial that the Polish government recognize that restrictions on family planning  and abortion are having an effect that is the opposite of their goal.  Not only are live births falling, but women are putting themselves at risk by using the abortion underground, online services that advertise the drugs used during medical abortions, and/or inducing abortions with sharp objects, unknown medications, etc.

This is all for now, but I will definitely be writing more about this throughout the semester!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Havlová
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 11:38:24

    Forced birth is shitty. What makes it even worse is when it’s an official government policy!


  2. Katherine
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 20:28:08

    I thought this scenario was pretty common in a lot of countries.


  3. Trackback: Open Thread: Dancing Sitting Down Edition | Alas, a blog
  4. Andy Jo
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 20:47:53

    Well… That’s the kind of scenario I grew up with when I was a kid — in Spain (we’re talking before Franco died and before a bunch of political reformed that happened). Except that there if you were raped, tough cookies if you got pregnant because you had to have the child. Ditto a deformed child. Ditto incest. Your life in danger? The doctors always saved the child and then might get around to the mother (that was the law). Contraception was illegal.

    People had illegal abortions. Because of the draconian laws regarding paternity (if a girl said “he got me pregnant” they HAD to get married), the men would buy condoms on the black market. Safe sex took on a whole new meaning.

    It was a nightmare. Now it is quite different due to a great Constitution and several progressive governments, but the Church still pushes for a return to the bad old days…

    –Andy Jo–


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