by guest author, Natalia Dueholm
“The Polish socialized healthcare system is bound and determined to exterminate children with Down’s syndrome before they are born,” said Kaja Godek, a pro-life activist.
Godek is also the mother of a boy born with this genetic condition. She herself was subject to pressure from health care providers to kill her child. Her televised speech before the Polish Parliament during a recent attempt to outlaw eugenic abortions granted her a standing ovation from conservative congressmen, and sent a shockwave through the media.
If Godek’s speech was not yet a tipping point for Polish politicians, they may find a recent case even more difficult to ignore.
In mid February 2014, Polish media shocked the public with reports of a 22-week baby born alive after a failed and legal abortion.
This baby, a girl weighing approximately 1.5 pounds, was born in the Provincial Specialist Hospital (Wojewódzki Szpital Specjalistyczny) in Wrocław. After the abortion failed, neonatologists were called to help the baby survive.
According to media reports, the girl, who has Down’s syndrome and heart problems, is in serious condition. She may have other health issues due to the abortion attempt. In Poland abortion is usually performed as induced labor. In this case it resulted in premature birth.
It is no surprise that Polish pro-life media immediately picked up the story. What is surprising is that a healthcare news portal and leftwing and mainstream internet sites also began reporting on it.
Breaking the silence
Mariusz Dzierżawski, an activist from The Right to Life Foundation, the leading Polish pro-life organization, said that there are grounds to think the baby was saved only because her weight was more that 500 grams (1.1 pounds).
Aleksandra Musiał, a Polish lawyer, said that she hopes that the prosecutor will thoroughly investigate the case. She hopes that this baby will survive and force the government to ban abortion with no exceptions. She explained that the current administration is very reluctant to look into any details about the procedure and refuses to disclose any specific information about the exact causes of legal abortions.
Abortion in Poland
According to Polish law, abortion is illegal except in the following circumstances. First, when the woman’s life or health is endangered, there are no legal limits as to the time when it can be performed. Second, when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, abortion is permitted until the 12th week. Finally, abortion is legal when a doctor believes the baby has a severe and irreversible handicap or an incurable and life threatening disease. In such situations—one of which was the now famous case of the 22-week-old girl—the procedure is legal until the baby is viable.
Recently, the Polish government released data showing that 757 children were aborted in public hospitals in 2012. Approximately 700 of them were aborted because they were suspected of being sick or carrying a genetic disorder. This number is steadily growing.
A gruesome truth
In response, the Right to Life Foundation (http://www.stop-abortion.org/) organizes pickets in front of Polish hospitals. Foundation members show large posters of aborted babies and the faces of abortion supporters, typically local politicians. Its work has resulted in a shift in public opinion, making Poland even more staunchly pro-life. According to a government survey conducted in July 2013, 75 percent of Poles see abortion as an evil and unjustifiable act.
In next year’s Parliamentary elections, the current ruling coalition is expected to lose. This gives hope that abortion will be finally banned completely.
Natalia Dueholm is a Polish journalist, an editor of a quarterly “Opcja na Prawo”. She wrote an Open Letter of Women Journalists Against Abortion (available also in English): http://www.za-zyciem.pl/index.php/en/