Death of pregnant Polish woman sparks new wave of abortion protests in Czechia

On the Day of Polish Independence, protestors marched against hardline abortion laws at the Polish consulate in Ostrava. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 12.11.2021 13:02:00 (updated on 12.11.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

Poland’s crackdown on abortion is forcing more and more Polish women to seek help in the Czech Republic. The “Auntie Czech” collective helping Polish women get abortions across the border earlier this month marked its first anniversary with a fundraiser in Prague.

Yesterday, on the occasion of the Day of Polish Independence, around 100 people met outside the Polish general consulate seat in Ostrava to protest against tough abortion legislation in Poland. The protest was organized to support larger-scale efforts taking place in Poland following the death of a pregnant woman after doctors refused to carry out an abortion to save her.

Protestors in Ostrava marched from the consulate building to the city center, where they observed a minute’s silence for the 30-year-old woman named Izabela. Critics of Poland’s abortion laws say Izabela died as a direct consequence of the Polish Constitutional Court’s decision in October 2020 to practically outlaw abortion in Poland.

“We are standing up against laws that are at odds with human rights. We have to make it clear that such acts and repressions on the part of the state cannot be tolerated in modern Europe,” said Gabriela Macečková, an Ostrava city assembly member and one of the organizers of the protest.

Abortion in Poland is now only allowed if the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act, such as rape or incest, or when a woman’s life is at risk. Doctors can be imprisoned for carrying out illegal abortions or giving patients pills to carry out the procedure at home. Following Izabela’s death, the Polish government reminded doctors that abortions are allowed if the pregnant woman’s health is in danger. Yet with abortion in most circumstances all but impossible (even when the fetus is severely damaged and predicted to die before being born), it’s thought Polish doctors have become hesitant about carrying out abortions even in life-threatening situations.

Organizers of the Ostrava protest said they continue to be shocked that such draconian restrictions on abortion should be in place so close to their city. Indeed, dozens of Polish women have been seeking help in neighboring countries as a result of the abortion ban.

The Auntie Czech collective works with cooperating hospitals to secure abortions for Polish women in need; many Czech hospitals and clinics still refuse to carry out abortions for Polish women, even though the Czech Ministry of Health has confirmed that it is legal for Polish women to have abortions in the Czech Republic.

A representative of Auntie Czech spoke at the demonstration in Ostrava underlining the organization's opposition to Polish laws. Auntie Czech has answered requests for help from nearly 650 women since its establishment; as the death of Izabela in Poland makes all too clear, the organization can expect to receive many more in the future.

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