• Alya

Pregnant Woman Dies After Abortion Restrictions in Poland

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

by Alya

Image: Associated Press

Abortion has always been a source of contention. The topic is considered to be extremely controversial with many varying views over its ethicality. At what point in the pregnancy should abortion be illegalized? Does the woman’s life weigh more than the fetus’? What if the fetus is bound to be born with abnormalities?

Poland has recently earned a great deal of international attention for the tightening of its abortion regulations, which are already seen as among the strictest in the world. The new laws state that abortion is illegal, holding exception to cases of rape, incest and if the mother’s life is under threat. It was only last year that protests had erupted after a court ruling that declared abortions of fetuses with congenital defects as unconstitutional.

Today, Poland is yet again the center of attention after the death of 30-year-old Izabela, whose death on Sept. 22nd was only announced last week. Ms. Izabela reportedly died as a result of pregnancy complications. Her doctors had hesitated to perform an abortion for fear of breaking the abortion laws.

Previous scans had shown many defects in Izabela’s fetus, but due to the restrictions, she was unable to terminate the pregnancy. She was in the 22nd week of her pregnancy when her water broke, and she immediately rushed to the hospital. “The baby weighs 485 grams. For now, thanks to the abortion law, I have to lie down. And there is nothing they can do. They'll wait until it dies or something begins, and if not, I can expect sepsis”, said Izabella in texts to her mother. She couldn't undergo an abortion until the fetus' heart stopped beating. But it was too late. Almost immediately after the fetus' death was confirmed, Izabella had died of septicemia.

Several women's rights organizations and Izabela's family lawyer, argue that this is the first known victim of the ruling. The government, on the other hand, disputes these claims, absolving themselves of blame and placing it on the doctors. This puts the medical professionals in a difficult position as they may have faced criminal prosecution if they had performed an abortion on Izabela prior to the fetus' death. A woman came forward, claiming to have shared a hospital room with Izabela. According to the witness, Izabela “felt that something was not right. But they kept telling her that the heart is beating, and that as long as the heart is beating this is the way it must be.”

Protests erupted when the situation was made public, condemning the clichèd anti-abortion argument that fetus’ have heartbeats by stating that Izabela’s “heart was beating too”. Demonstrators were joined by opposition politicians including Donald Tusk, former president of the European Council.

The circumstance raises the ethical dilemma of who is to blame. The government's stance on the new abortion laws does not appear to be changing, and neither do the demonstrators'. Although Izabela's family seeks justice and a reform in the new laws, it appears unlikely that this will happen.


Alya is a guest writer for the OnJustice Group

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