– Poland debates the discriminatory effect of its current abortion law
– Human rights advocates voice concerns about rise in eugenic abortions
WARSAW/BRUSSELS (13 Apr 2018) – Do persons with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else, regardless of their age? On 12 April 2018, ADF International filed an intervention with the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland in a case concerning Polish abortion law. The amicus brief argued that by allowing abortion on the ground of a possible disability of the unborn child, Poland is discriminating against people with disabilities. This violates Poland’s obligations under international law and its own constitution.
Poland’s abortion law discriminates against people with disabilities
“Every human life is valuable. Human rights protect all members of the human family regardless of their age or abilities. Poland’s abortion law discriminates against people with disabilities by allowing medical professionals to end the life of a child when that child does not fit the ‘normal’ profile of what some consider ‘healthy or desirable,’” said Alice Neffe, Legal Counsel for ADF International and author of the brief.
“Legislation is a powerful tool, not only reflecting but also shaping the society that it regulates. If legislation mirrors society, then at present, Poland’s abortion laws mirror a society on the way to eradicating disability, not by humane medical research and innovation, but by taking the lives of children in the womb. Disability should not become a death sentence,” Neffe added.
Rise in eugenic abortions
In 2002, 159 abortions were performed under the Polish law. By 2016, that had risen to 1,098 cases – an increase of more than 600%. Out of these 1,098 abortions, 1,042 were performed because the child was potentially disabled. This rise in eugenic abortions has triggered an uproar in Polish society, members of which have begun asking the government to properly protect the right to life and the right of disabled people to be treated equally.
The outcome of the citizens’ legislative initiative “Zatrzymaj aborcję” (stop abortion), signed by 830,000 citizens, is a draft bill currently being debated in Parliament. At the moment, this bill is stalled within the Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family affairs.
More than a third of abortions performed in Poland on the basis of potential disability are due to a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. One of the prominent supporters of this bill is Kaja Godek. She became an advocate for the right to life of people with disabilities after doctors pressured her to have an abortion when her son’s Down Syndrome was detected.
“Who dares to say that Ms. Godek’s child has less of a right to live just because he has Down Syndrome?” asked Neffe. “Our society should use its considerable resources to support every mother and her unborn child. We should work together to create an environment in which all parents feel able to welcome their children into the world.”