Poland’s top court ruled Thursday that a law allowing abortion due to the congenital defects of the fetus is unconstitutional.
Only two judges in the 13-member Constitutional Court did not back the majority ruling.
The ruling party will soon propose new legislation to support women and their children who will be born as a result of the court’s ruling, the party’s spokeswoman said.
The court’s decision came in response to a motion from right-wing lawmakers who argued that terminating a pregnancy due to fetal defects — the most common reason cited for abortions in Poland — violates a constitutional provision that calls for protecting the life of every individual.
The court argued that terminating pregnancy due to defects of the fetus amounted to eugenics.
It agreed with the plaintiffs that conditioning the life of an unborn child on its health was a form of banned discrimination.
The challenged law was introduced by Poland’s post-communist democracy in 1993 as a compromise between the influential Catholic Church and the state authorities.
It allows abortions if a pregnancy endangers a woman’s health or life or results from rape, or in the case of congenital defects. Only the last provision was challenged.
Health Ministry figures show that 1,110 abortions were carried out in Poland in 2019, mostly because of fetal defects.
In justifying its decision, the court said “there can be no protection of the dignity of an individual without the protection of life.”
Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski, known for his strong conservative views, hailed the verdict and expressed “great appreciation for the courage” of the judges in the defense of human life “from the moment of conception to the [moment of] natural death.”
Opposition lawmakers lashed out.
The head of the Civic Coalition, Borys Budka, said on Twitter that the government used a “false” court of its own appointees to do something “simply inhuman.”
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović deplored the decision.
“Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in #Poland amounts to a ban & violates #HumanRights,” she tweeted. “A sad day for #WomensRights.”
Police guarded the court’s building as groups of pro-abortion and pro-life activists gathered outside as the verdict was announced.
One of the judges who did not back the ruling, Leon Kieres, argued he was mindful of the situation and condition of women when deprived of the right to decide about a pregnancy with defects.
Polish lawmakers considered legislation earlier this year that would have imposed a near-total ban on abortion by outlawing the procedure in cases of fetal abnormalities. They ended up postponing a final vote on the proposal brought by a Catholic group.
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