Polish health minister ‘appalled’ girl, 14, struggled to get abortion after rape | Poland
Poland’s health minister has commented on the high-profile rape case, saying it is “unacceptable” for a mentally handicapped 14-year-old girl to attempt a legal abortion.
The case, in which doctors at several hospitals used a conscience clause to avoid having a procedure, has sparked fresh calls to relax the Catholic nation’s abortion laws, which are among the strictest in Europe.
“We are shocked by this case, here our answer is unequivocal,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told reporters.
Since a near-complete ban came into force in 2021, abortions in Poland are only allowed if the pregnancy is the result of sexual violence or threatens the life or health of the woman.
But as the current case shows, even legal abortions are sometimes difficult to obtain in an EU country.
According to the women’s rights group Federa, the teenage girl, whose name has not been released, became pregnant after her uncle raped her.
Federa, who first reported the case, said the teenage girl had a mental disorder and was unaware of the pregnancy until her aunt discovered what had happened and tried to help her get an abortion.
But doctors at several hospitals in eastern Poland have refused to terminate the pregnancy, citing a so-called conscience clause that allows them not to have an abortion if they feel it is contrary to their beliefs.
The abortion was ultimately performed in Warsaw after Federa intervened.
“No words of disgust are enough for such behavior … but for us the most important thing was to help the girl,” Federa said.
The case prompted opposition politicians to call for a change in the law.
“The statute of conscience is a barbaric and inhuman law… and it should be repealed,” left-wing MP Katarzyna Cotula told reporters.
Center-left MP Barbara Nowaka said the opposition would prepare a bill to limit the use of the clause by doctors.
Government Ombudsman Marcin Vyacek said the case showed flaws in the legal system, saying the teenager should have been informed about hospitals willing to have an abortion.
Abortion has been a political battleground in Poland since a top court sided with the right-wing government in late 2020 and ruled that abortions due to fetal defects are unconstitutional.