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Polish Parliament Shelves Legislation

2005-03-30 15:30:23 / News read 2441 reading
Poland's parliament on Tuesday voted 183-199 to shelve a measure thatwouldhave "liberalized" abortion law in the "overwhelmingly" Roman Catholicnationby allowing the procedure to be performed up to 12 weeks gestation, theAssociated Press reports (Associated Press, 2/15). Under current Polish law,abortion is banned except in cases of rape, incest, when the fetus isdeformedor when the woman's health is in danger.

Under the law, a woman who obtainsanillegal abortion is not punished, but the person providing the illegalabortion can face up to two years in prison. However, many women's groupsallege that the law, which contributed to a reduction in the number of legalregistered abortions in Poland from 11,700 in 1992 to 124 in 2001, has ledtoas many as 200,000 illegal abortions annually.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in November 2004 criticized Poland's abortion law, saying that it "puts women's lives atrisk byencouraging them to seek illegal abortions, sometimes from untrained practitioners" (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 11/10/04). The measure is being delayed at least until after parliamentary elections, which are expected in September or October, Reuters reports. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, the parliamentary speaker and member of the country's ruling Democratic Left Alliance, which sets parliament's agenda, said he would notallow further discussion on the bill until after the election (Reuters,2/15).

The measure, which was proposed by the Democratic Left Alliance, alsowouldhave introduced sex education as a separate subject in primary schools andallowed minors to undergo abortions without parental consent. Before theparliamentary vote on the measure, members of the League of Polish Familiessent to lawmakers and journalists hundreds of small dolls meant to lookedlikefetuses at 10 weeks gestation with a message reading, "Your life also beganatconception." The Catholic Church also sent legislators a letter saying thatthe bill "would be a crime against the nation, especially in light of theverylow birth rate" (Associated Press, 2/15).

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