Poland's Health Minister Adam Nedzielski has intervened in the case of a 14-year-old mentally disabled girl who had tried unsuccessfully to have an abortion after being raped. The country is known for its restrictive abortion laws.
"We are appalled by this case and our reaction to it is unequivocal," Niedzielski told reporters on Monday. Doctors at several hospitals had denied the girl, who, according to women's rights group Federa, had become pregnant after being raped by her uncle, an abortion, citing a conscience clause.
The case sparked calls from women's rights groups and the opposition to relax Poland's abortion laws. Since an almost complete ban came into force in 2021, abortions in Poland are only permitted if the pregnancy is the result of rape or endangers the life or health of the woman.
However, the case of the 14-year-old made it clear that even in such cases, women can be made difficult to have an abortion.
According to women's rights group Federa, the girl was unaware of her pregnancy. However, her aunt found out about her uncle's sexual abuse and sought an abortion. However, doctors at several hospitals in eastern Poland refused to perform the procedure. They invoked a conscience clause, on the basis of which doctors can refuse an abortion if it contradicts their religious beliefs.
Only after Federa interceded for the girl was an abortion carried out in a hospital in Warsaw. Several opposition representatives called for an amendment to the abortion law after the case became known.
The conscience clause is "barbaric and inhuman" and must be abolished, said Katarzyna Kotula of the left-liberal Wiosna party. Center-left politician Barbara Nowacka of the Citizens' Coalition announced a draft law by the opposition to abolish the conscience clause in the Sejm.
In October 2020, Poland's highest court, with the support of the national-conservative government, declared the abortion of severely malformed fetuses to be unconstitutional, paving the way for a tightening of the already very restrictive abortion law.