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Outcry after Polish woman is harassed by the police for taking abortion pills

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Activists have spoken out after a woman’s traumatic experience with police in Poland, reported by the press on 18th July. Joanna took abortion pills at home – which is legal in Poland – and called her doctor after she started to feel unwell. Her doctor reported her to the police as a possible suicide attempt. The police then searched her and seized her laptop and phone, and refused to leave Joanna during medical examination.  

Joanna was taken to another hospital to the gynaecological ward, where female police officers made her undress, squat and cough. Joanna says that she undressed but kept her underwear on as she was still bleeding, and it was embarrassing for her. They forced her to take off her underwear. 

Joanna knew that she did not break the law and therefore was upfront and honest about the fact that she took the pills herself and nobody helped her. During the intervention, police repeatedly referred to Joanna’s actions (taking abortion pills) as a ‘crime’. In Poland, it is not against the law to self-manage an abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. Police have argued that their intervention was necessary to check whether someone had assisted the woman in terminating her pregnancy, since helping with abortion is criminalised in Poland. Her phone has still not been returned to her despite a court ruling that its confiscation and Joanna’s detention were not legal. 

Police have claimed that they did everything according to the law, but there will be an investigation by the Naczelna Izba Lekarska (‘Supreme Chamber of Doctors’) to determine what happened. The Ombudsman has requested that the Commander of the Municipal Police in Krakow provides legal reasoning as to why they shared her private details in their statement. Joanna has said that the police intervention completely broke her.  

Key information on abortion pills

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) lists drugs for pharmacological abortion (mifepristone and misoprostol) in the list of essential medicines that should be available in every country.  
  • According to WHO data, mifepristone and misoprostol tablets can be safely used in your own home during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.  
  • Abortion pills mifeprisone and misoprostol are safe, one of the best-researched drugs in the world, and millions of people have taken them. It is also relatively non-invasive for the body and safer than, for example, Viagra.  
  • Abortion pills cause a process very similar to spontaneous (natural) miscarriage – light bleeding after taking the pills is expected.