Polish Activist Sentenced for Helping a Woman Obtain Abortion Pills

Warsaw court on Tuesday sentenced Justyna Wydrzyńska to eight months of community service for helping a pregnant woman obtain abortion pills.

International human rights organizations that were closely following Wydrzyńska’s case condemned the ruling. The United Nations experts said they are "outraged" by the sentencing and urged Polish judicial authorities to acquit Wydryńska from all charges.

"The charges against Ms. Wydrzyńska appear to be intended to punish her work as a human rights defender and to instill fear among those who are supporting Polish women in accessing safe abortion care, and already working in a hostile environment," the statement says.

Prosecutors charged Wydrzyńska with "helping with an abortion," a crime punishable by up to three years in prison since Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled in 2020 that abortion is unconstitutional due to fetal impairment. The ruling provides exceptions in case the pregnancy poses a risk to the life or health of a pregnant woman or results from rape or incest.

In practice, receiving abortion care in Poland is nearly impossible even for those who qualify for exceptions, forcing women to seek the procedure in other European countries. However, not all women have resources or can travel abroad, including a woman to whom Wydrzyńska helped obtain abortion pills in 2020.

According to the local media, the woman, Ania, already had one child when she got pregnant. Her abusive partner prevented her from terminating the pregnancy abroad, threatening to report a kidnapping if she went to Germany with their 3-year-old son. The partner allegedly reported her to the police for obtaining abortion pills.

In her final speech, Wydrzyńska said she didn’t distribute abortion pills and sent Ania the medication she had for her own use. The activist said she shared the pills because she had also experienced her partner’s financial, physical, and psychological abuse in the past.

Wydrzyńska, the co-founder of the Abortion Dream Team, the organization that provides support to women seeking abortions, will appeal the ruling.

Keina Yoshida, Senior Legal Adviser at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which presented an amicus to the court in 2022, says: "Wydrzyńska prosecution sets a dangerous precedent for the targeting of human rights defenders in Poland who are working to advance reproductive rights and challenge Poland’s de facto ban on abortion."

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