Poland: Abortion

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written question – answered on 17th November 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Goudie Baroness Goudie Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the government of Poland's compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to its position on the termination of pregnancies; and what representations they have made to the government of Poland on this matter.

Photo of Baroness Sugg Baroness Sugg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK is a leading voice on gender issues, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, in multilateral fora such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations. There are three outstanding cases in the Council of Europe concerning abortion in Poland; the European Court of Human Rights has judged Poland incompliant with numerous articles of the European Convention on Human Rights: P. and S. v. Poland (2012), R.R v Poland (2011) and Tysiac v Poland (2007). These cases relate to difficulties in accessing an entitlement to lawful abortion in Poland in accordance with the European Convention of Human Rights. Whilst we have not raised these specific cases directly with the Polish government, we continue, within the Council of Europe, to urge the Polish authorities to comply with the Convention, in line with the judgments handed down by the Court, for example by guaranteeing clear and effective procedures to provide women seeking lawful abortion with adequate information on the steps they need to take to obtain it. The three cases will be reviewed again in the Council of Europe in March 2021.

We are closely monitoring developments following a ruling on 22 October by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal that laws permitting abortion in certain cases are unconstitutional, and the large-scale protests across Poland that this has prompted. It is for each country to establish its own laws on abortion. However, the UK firmly believes that supporting the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls, through evidence-based public health interventions, saves lives. Evidence shows that restricting access to safe abortion does not make abortions less common: it only makes them less safe. The British Embassy in Warsaw is also active on the gender equality agenda and in September ran a workshop for British and Polish NGOs active on women's rights.

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