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Press release: Belgium becomes first country to fund abortions for people in Poland

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Belgian government to fund Polish abortions in solidarity with those who have been failed by criminalisation

Abortion Without Borders is delighted that the Belgian government has announced financial support for women who need to travel from Poland to access an abortion.

On International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September, the Belgian Minister of Health and the junior Minister for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity announced that they would provide €10,000 funding to Abortion Without Borders to support people who are unable to access an abortion in Poland.

Abortion Without Borders provides information and financial support for anyone in Poland who needs help accessing an abortion, for any reason. Abortion in Poland is restricted even for cases of fatal foetal abnormality; in October 2020, the Polish government ruled that 98% of the 1,000-2,000 legal abortions taking place in the country were ‘unconstitutional’. In the six months following the ruling, Abortion Without Borders was contacted by 17,000 people seeking help, and continues to receive around 800 calls per month.

In today’s announcement (28 September), the Belgian government highlighted that access to abortion care is a health issue that, from Poland, is effectively being outsourced to other countries. They note that civil society is intervening to support women who need to travel to access abortions, and the Polish state is failing to protect the health of its citizens. The announcement comes just after days after a Polish anti-choice campaign group pushed for even further criminalisation of people who support others to access an abortion.

This support is a true act of solidarity. We are thrilled to see our friends in Belgium extend their hands across borders to help people forced by punitive governments to travel for abortion care. While the situation for people who need abortions in Poland has been dire since 1990, the ruling made in October 2020 and published in January 2021 has made things even worse. The number of people needing our support has doubled, and we are both grateful for this support and hopeful that other countries follow Belgium’s lead.

Mara Clarke, Abortion Support Network founder and member of Abortion Without Borders

“Since launching Abortion Without Borders in 2019, we have seen again and again what international abortion solidarity looks like. Today this solidarity was shown by the Belgian government, which not only encourages people in Poland to travel to Belgium to access them, but also provides funds to cover the costs of abortion and travel. We are grateful and moved by the announcement, because this is real, practical, and necessary help, especially needed by those impacted by the Constitutional Tribunal ruling.”

Natalia Broniarczyk, from Abortion Dream Team and member of Abortion Without Borders

Access to abortion is a fundamental right that must be ensured by every democratic state. It allows women to own their own bodies, protect their health, and not be forced to give up life opportunities. When a state fails to protect its citizens, civil society must step in. As the Polish government tacitly accepts that Polish women go abroad to access the services they should be entitled to at home, access to abortion becomes even more of a financial issue. It is for this reason that with my colleague Frank Vandenbroucke, Minister of Health, we have taken the decision to send a strong signal by supporting Abortion Support Network, which helps Polish women financially and logistically who wish to have an abortion in another European country. The grant we are providing will cover the costs of having an abortion in another European country for women who cannot afford it.

Sarah Schlitz, Belgian junior Minister for Gender Equality