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Polish rape victim wins ECHR ruling over abortion

polish flagA 14 year-old rape victim from Poland, whose attempts to Obtain an abortion won her unwelcome attention from anti-choice campaigners, should have had “unhindered access” to a termination, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

The girl and her mother were awarded €61,000 (£49,000) in compensation.

Refused at every turn

Poland, with its large Catholic majority, has strict laws on abortion, which is banned in most cases, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and risk to the health of the mother or foetus. As required under Polish law, the girl was awarded a certificate from the public prosecutor stating that she had been raped, and was therefore entitled to an abortion.

But when she attempted to terminate her pregnancy in her home town of Lublin, the hospital refused to carry out the procedure – and issued a press release, making the girl’s case a political football.

An attempt to obtain a termination in Warsaw was also unsuccessful, after anti-abortion protesters put pressure on doctors not to accommodate the girl’s wishes. The girl and her mother were harassed by anti-abortion protesters, then taken in for police questioning.

The mother was then accused by the authorities of trying to pressure her daughter into having an abortion, and the girl was placed in a juvenile home.

The Ministry of Health eventually acted, and the girl was able to have an abortion in Gdansk – 500km away from her home town.

ECHR ruling

The ECHR’s panel of judges, who heard the girl’s case, found that her rights had been breached multiple times, when her legal right to an abortion was blocked, and her case details were made public by t

he hospital in Lublin. The ruling is subject to appeal.

Abortion Rights commented: “It is good to hear that this young woman who was treated so callously by medical staff and anti-choice groups has received compensation. No-one should have to undergo such a torturous process in order to access a safe and legal abortion – least of all a young teenager who is pregnant as a result of rape.

“We hope this ruling will help to strengthen the pro-choice movement in Poland.”