Pregnant in Poland? Government Considers Tracking You for Illegal Abortion

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Pregnant in Poland? Government Considers Tracking You for Illegal Abortion

Anna Wilkowska-Landowska

The Polish Health Minister recently proposed a new health department that would register and track women's pregnancies to ensure abortions were not obtained illegally.

The Polish Government
has plans to register pregnant women.

At an informal meeting with journalists on September 11, the Minister of Health, Ewa
Kopacz, declared that she had plans
to establish a new department within the Ministry office
– the Department on Mother and Child. This department will design a
new social and health program concerning pregnant women – and it will be responsible for maintaining a
registry of pregnant women.

If a woman agrees
to join the program, her data will be registered in a "special system",
to enable doctors and nurses to keep contact with her, stated Ms.
Kopacz. Women participating in the program will have a chance to undertake
additional medical examinations, and they will not wait long hours
for a visit with the gynecologist.

That is how the Ministry of
Health envisions its fight against illegal abortion. It wants to register
pregnant women and afterwards to undertake control as to whether or not a woman
gives birth to a child in the end. In Poland, abortion is legal only to save a woman’s life or preserve her health.

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If a woman participating
in the program does not attend medical checks as previously agreed, it will be the responsibility
of a midwife to establish contact with her, Minister
Kopacz emphasized. 

"If we find out that a woman registered in the system
is not yet pregnant before her pregnancy due date, it could mean that
she has had a miscarriage or she has terminated her pregnancy," said
Jakub Gołąb, a spokesman of the Ministry. "That way, we shall receive
information about the scope of abortion underground in Poland." Gołąb
claimed that the fight against underground or illegal abortion will be an indirect
consequence of introducing the program. He could not say whether doctors
would be obliged to report to the Ministry and submit all data related
to women who declared they had undergone an abortion. We do know that all doctors will be given instructions by the Ministry, according
to which – after confirming a woman’s pregnancy – they will be obliged
to record it in a special register. 

The program is set to start
running in January of next year. But it is still an idea in need of elaboration. The new Department on Mother
and Child is also supposed to deal with the monitoring of announcements in newspapers concerning illegal abortion. "These are hidden under
expressions like: ‘regaining menstruation,’" said the Minister
of Health. "Our aim is to fight against all forms of illegal abortion," she declared.

Many groups have been shocked upon hearing of the Ministry’s plans. Women’s rights activists objected to the plan as
a violation of privacy:

"Registration of pregnant women is a breach
of a Constitutional right to privacy and in a way a comeback of
totalitarian regime – said Agnieszka Graff from Feminoteka foundation. "That is an attack
on women’s rights to medical care, because the whole situation will
result in women with unwanted pregnancies not visiting their doctors."

By way of protesting, the Polish feminists decided to send to the Ministry
of Health tampons with a few drops of raspberry juice. "We would like
to show Ms. Minister how grotesque the idea is. If a state wants to control
our intimate sphere, here you go," said Graff.

Opponents of the Ministry’s
idea argue that there are other ways to counteract illegal abortion –
there are police and prosecutor’s offices. And putting pressure on
pregnant women to register is an irrational solution.

The Ministry
explains that through the registration process it wants to encourage
future mothers to undergo regular medical checks. But others say
that future mothers can take care of themselves and that type of state’s
assistance is not really necessary or helpful.

On the very next day, September
12, the Ministry’s representative said that there would be no mandatory registration
of pregnant women or control over women who are pregnant. He further
stated that the discussion which followed on the news had been
adversely interpreted by journalists. He emphasized that there would only be data collected on women who freely joined
the program.

Let us hope this time that the
news is properly interpreted and all pregnant women in Poland do not face the
problem of registering with the government when the new Department on Mother
and Child is set to implement its projects in January of next year.