Council of Europe calls on Poland to guarantee women abortion rights

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called on Poland on Friday to immediately guarantee women the right to legal abortions and prenatal tests as well as to ensure access to information and the possibility of pregnancy terminations nationwide.

The Committee of Ministers, which is the executive body of the Council of Europe grouping 47 states, called on the Polish government to ensure that "no unnecessary requirements are imposed on pregnant women seeking lawful abortion by hospitals beforehand” and that authorities provide women with "adequate information on these procedures".

In addition, the Council of Europe declaration sates, the Polish government should legally oblige hospitals to "include in legislation an obligation for hospitals to refer a patient to an alternative healthcare facility if a medical service is refused on the grounds of conscience and to monitor effectively its observance in practice."

Last October, Poland's Constitutional Tribunal ruled against abortion on foetal-damage grounds, practically banning nearly all forms of terminations. Abortions are now permitted only in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother's health or life is endangered.

The ruling prompted a series of mass nationwide demonstrations that have presented a difficult challenge to the country’s government, led by the socially conservative Law and Justice party.