A year ago – on 22 October 2020 – a Polish Constitutional Court decided that the provision of abortion in case of foetal malformation was unconstitutional. While the decision didn’t come into force until 27 January 2021, the change happened immediately. The next day, despite the still-valid provision of abortion under Poland’s abortion act, the first four people refused abortion in Polish hospitals called Abortion Without Borders for help.
Over the past 12 months Abortion Without Borders groups have helped 34,000 people from Poland to access abortion. 1080 people were able to terminate their pregnancy in a foreign clinic in the second trimester. Financial support given was more than 700,000 zloty/ £129,000/ €153,000.
Since October 22, 2020:
- 1,080 people were helped to navigate a second trimester abortion at a clinic outside Poland by one of the six member groups of the Abortion Without Borders initiative.
- 523 of the 1080 people disclosed information about the presence of a foetal abnormality. Abortion in the Netherlands and England is available on request, so we do not ask the reason someone seeks an abortion, so this number could be higher.
- The total amount of funding given by Abortion Without Borders is more than 700, 000 PLN/ £129,000/ €153,000.
- Over 8,457 people called the Abortion Without Borders hotline seeking information and access to abortion and 2,758 people wrote e-mails asking for help with abortion. 274 people were looking for information about how to get the morning-after pill and 407 needed counselling after an abortion.
- Ciocia (Auntie) Basia in Germany helped 378 people access abortion. 243 people terminated their pregnancies by travelling to Berlin, 33 people were referred to Ciocia Wienia in Vienna, Austria and the remaining 102 people were referred to other German cities and had abortions with the help of other Ciocia groups.
- Abortion Network Amsterdam (ANA) of the Netherlands helped 245 people to access second trimester abortions. The total amount of support provided by Abortion Network Amsterdam is more than 25,000 zloty/ £4,608 / €5,465. This amount includes the cost of the procedure, stay and travel arrangements in many cases also mandatory COVID tests.
- The Abortion Support Network operating in England has helped at least 460 people to access second trimester abortion in England, the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe. The financial support given by ASN to Polish people terminating their pregnancies amounted to 670,000 zloty/ £123,513 / €146,450. As with ANA, this funding was for abortions, travel and accommodations costs, Covid tests and more.
- The remaining people who needed to travel abroad for second trimester abortions were helped by more than one organization within Abortion Without Borders and travelled to Belgium, Spain, France and the Czech Republic for abortion.
- Women Help Women, an international organization that facilitates postal access to abortion pills, has responded to over 80,000 messages from Poland. In the last 12 months over 18,000 people in Poland benefited from the help of Women Help Women.
- Over 2,200 new people have registered on the online forum of Kobiety w Sieci (Women on the Net). Since 22 October 2020, 434 people have received support while having abortion with pills from people on the forum with personal experience of abortion with pills. 45 of these people were in the second trimester of pregnancy and decided to take pills with the help of Kobiety w Sieci because they could not or did not wish to go to a clinic abroad.
- The Abortion Dream Team (ADT) has helped more than 3,400 people have abortions with pills in the past 12 months. Of those 3,400, 77 people were in their second trimester of pregnancy – unable/unwilling to travel to a clinic abroad for the procedure and chose to take the pills with ADT assistance. 967 people sought access to the morning-after pill. 361 people contacted ADT’s legal hotline.
- In the two clinics in Holland, where we most often send people for second trimester abortions, 3-6 people from Poland terminate their pregnancies every day. Many of them arrange the treatment on their own without the support of Abortion Without Borders or other organisations.
- On International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2021, the Belgian Minister of Health and the Junior Minister for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity announced they would provide €10,000 to Abortion Without Borders to support people unable to access an abortion in Poland. The Belgian government said that the Polish state does not protect the health of its citizens.
Taking into account Polish government statistics of how many abortions were previously performed in Polish hospitals (prior to the ruling), we conclude that Abortion Without Borders has taken over almost all the abortions previously provided by the Polish state. The responsibility for second trimester abortions now rests on the shoulders of feminist organizations and informal groups and depends on money raised from donations.
People helped by Abortion Without Borders:
Magda went to Germany for an abortion, but the ultrasound showed she was over 14 weeks, beyond the legal limit for abortion on request in Germany. Magda was very young – another trip, treatment and stay were costs way beyond her financial possibilities. The Abortion Support Network covered almost the entire amount needed, so Magda could terminate her pregnancy in the Netherlands.
Kasia was 15 years old and 12 weeks pregnant. She was afraid to tell her mother that she had sex with her boyfriend. Her mother asked her several times if her period was late, they had a good relationship, but Kasia was afraid she would let her down. Eventually Kasia confided in her mother, who then called the Abortion Without Borders hotline. Kasia’s abortion took place one week after their first contact with the hotline.
Anita (named changed) was in the 19th week of a much wanted and planned pregnancy. During the ultrasound, serious abnormalities in the development of the foetus were discovered. Deeper diagnostics confirmed that the foetus was burdened with lethal defects. She was told by a Polish doctor that “it would be better if she went abroad”. Anita contacted Abortion Without Borders and terminated the pregnancy in the Netherlands. The whole amount including the cost of travel, surgery and stay amounted to almost 9,000 zloty/ £1,655/ €1,963.
Representatives of the organisations that make up Abortion Without Borders said:
Justyna Wydrzyńska, Kobiety w Sieci:
“Abortion is not an opinion, abortion is a decision that individuals make when they need it, when they have unwanted pregnancies and want to terminate them. Sometimes it is a wanted pregnancy, diagnosed with defects that preclude the possibility of life for the child after birth.
Abortion Without Borders helps in both cases. We were established on 11 December 2019 precisely to provide mental, psychological, logistical and above all financial support. For those people who cannot travel abroad on their own, for those people who do not speak the language and need translation to contact with medical personnel.
The last year has confirmed how necessary our work is. Every day at least 90 people take abortion pills and another 3 travel to an overseas clinic for an abortion procedure. We are with these individuals and will continue to be.”
Natalia Broniarczyk, Abortion Dream Team:
“A year ago the constitutional tribunal decision pushed us to the wall. Everyone in Poland who can get pregnant received a clear signal that the authorities don’t give a damn about their lives, their emotions and their families. We could bang our heads against the wall out of helplessness, or we could get out the spray-paint and write the Abortion Without Borders hotline number. We chose the latter option. For us, the anniversary of this scandalous ruling is an opportunity to show that abortions are happening in Poland – regardless of the functioning of the law. Abortions are happening because there are organizations and groups which help people get abortions. 22 October 2020 started a movement of helping and supporting each other in abortions”
Mara Clarke, Abortion Support Network:
“The court ruling has not stopped abortions happening in Poland. No law, not even the most restrictive anti-abortion law, will ever stop abortion. The only thing this decision has done is to force our friends, mothers, sisters, daughters, neighbours and all those with unwanted pregnancies to arrange to travel to another country for abortions on their own or to contact Abortion Without Borders for help. We are proud to help people access abortions, but we are also furious that those in power have chosen to abandon these people.”
Maria Owczarz, Ciocia Basia:
“At Ciocia Basia, we are happy to be able to reach out more widely – not only to people who need abortions abroad, but also to help more people who need access to abortion pills and emergency contraception in Poland. As a group made up primarily of Polish migrant women, we feel empowered to give support and solidarity to people in Poland who are denied such a basic human right as the decision to have a safe abortion. Helping people from Poland have abortions is the best response to the oppression brought by the tribunal last fall.”
Kasia Roszak ten Hove, Abortion Network Amsterdam:
“When we started our group in Amsterdam, we thought we would hear from 1-2 people a month. As members of Abortion Without Borders we are part of an extraordinary initiative that has allowed us to not only support pregnant people from Poland, but also people from other countries living in the Netherlands who, for a variety of reasons, are not entitled to free abortion care. Since the constitutional tribunal decision the number of people contacting us about abortion has quadrupled. We are happy that we can help, because no one should have to become a parent just because they live in a country where abortion is forbidden.”
Kinga Jelińska, Women Help Women:
“Abortion Without Borders is an initiative about solidarity, radical empathy and practical help. When we talk about borders, we mean the barriers that people in need of abortion face living in countries with very bad abortion regulations. These are not only geographical barriers, but also lack of money, access to information and support for those people who, despite the enormity of the abortion stigma, give themselves the right to decide on their own abortion. We assure you that for us, access to abortion will never depend on where a person was born, what passport they have, how old they are, what gender they are or what religion they are. We are here with empathy, kindness, information on how to get an abortion at home, safely and effectively with pills, but also money if you need to go abroad. We are here without judgement.”
Abortion Without Borders (AWB) was founded on 11 December 2019 to help people with unwanted pregnancies in Poland or abroad. During its first year, more than 5,000 people turned to AWB for help in terminating a pregnancy. Since 22 October 2020, the numbers of people seeking abortion support has increased multiple times. The members of Abortion Without Borders initiative are Kobiety w Sieci (Poland), Abortion Dream Team (Poland), Women Help Women (international), Abortion Network Amsterdam (Netherlands), Ciocia Basia (Germany) and Abortion Support Network (England).
Abortion Without Borders provides information about available safe abortion options; provides consultation before, during and after abortion; informs about how to get safe medical abortion pills; and supports financially, logistically and practically in arranging abortions abroad.
Abortion Without Borders’ values:
- We help people access abortions
- We reduce stigma around abortion, whether with pills at home or at a clinic abroad
- We never ask those in need of our support how they got pregnant or why they want abortions, but trust and respect the autonomy of pregnant people
- We ensure that “I can’t afford an abortion” is never the only reason for someone to give birth.
Kobiety w Sieci: Justyna Wydrzyńska, +48 725 892 134 [email protected]
Abortion Dream Team Natalia Broniarczyk, +48503098993, [email protected]
Abortion Support Network: Mara Clarke, +44 7913 353 530, [email protected]
Abortion Network Amsterdam, Kasia Roszak ten Hove, +31 6 161 25302, [email protected]
Ciocia Basia, Maria Anna Owczarz, +49 1771 5321 45, [email protected]
Women Help Women, Kinga Jelińska, +31 645956581, [email protected]
If you are in Poland and need an abortion you can call Abortion Without Borders +48 22 29 22 597 (seven days a week, 8 am to 8 pm), email [email protected] or visit abortionabezgranic.pl.