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Polish High Court Outlaws Abortion in Cases of Fetal Disability

Sunrise in the market square of Krakow, Poland (Liseykina/Dreamstime)

Poland has traditionally outlawed most abortions, except for those obtained due to fetal abnormality or to save the life or health of the mother.  Now, the Constitutional Tribunal, Poland’s highest court, has ruled that abortion obtained because of fetal disability is unconstitutional. From the New York Times story:

In the ruling, the tribunal’s president, Julia Przylebska, said that allowing abortions in cases of fetal abnormality legalized “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity.”

Because the Polish Constitution guarantees a right to life, she added, terminating a pregnancy based on the health of the fetus amounted to “a directly forbidden form of discrimination.”

In other words, the court treated the unborn child as a human being deserving of the same equal rights as people who are born.

Fetal anomaly was the reason for most of Poland’s 1,110 legal abortions in 2019, so this ruling could save the lives of children diagnosed with Down syndrome, dwarfism, and other genetic conditions.

Most non-Polish news stories about the case focused on the “angry” protests that erupted in the decision’s wake, with some critics of the decision worrying that more women will have to leave Poland for an abortion — which more than 100,000 already do each year.

The only way the case can be overturned would be to amend the Polish constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority vote of the people. Poland is a pro-life country — one of the few in the West — so that isn’t likely, at least in the near term.