‘Stop Killing Us’ – Pregnant woman’s death triggers violent protests in Poland
Scores of protesters marched in Poland Wednesday, demanding the legalisation of abortion, as reports reached the media of 33-year-old Dorota Lalik’s death in a hospital in Nowy Targ, in the south of the country, on May 24 – just three days after being admitted.
Poland’s patients’ rights ombudsman, Bartłomiej Chmielowiec, on Monday said the John Paul II hospital should have informed the woman that her life could be saved through an abortion. By withholding the critical information, the hospital violated her rights, the ombudsman ruled.
“They were giving us false hope that everything will be OK,” Lalik’s husband told Polish media.
Not The First
A similar incident came in the limelight in 2021 as well. Izabela, 30, died in Pszczyna after being denied a chance to terminate her pregnancy, triggering massive demonstrations and shining the spotlight on the way a 2020 ruling affects pregnancies with complications.
The procedure is legal in Poland if the pregnancy is the result of a crime or poses a risk to the pregnant person’s health or life. But in 2020, the predominantly Catholic country’s constitutional tribunal ruled that abortion due to foetal defects is unconstitutional.
According to Jolanta Budzowska, the lawyer representing the families of Lalik and Izabela, this ruling has had a “freezing effect” on Polish doctors.
Doctors can face up to three years in prison if they terminate a pregnancy too early and prosecutors then decide there was no danger to the mother, she told the Guardian in 2021.
Doctors Denying Access To Abortions That Are Legal
While Poland’s anti-abortion legislation is very restrictive, the doctors’ interpretation of the law is stricter than the government’s, said Marta Lempart, founder of the All-Poland Women’s Strike, adding health professionals are denying access to abortions that are legal.
The Polish ministry of health responded to the latest death by asking experts to issue more detailed standards for obstetricians.
In 2005, the then-director of the hospital in which Dorota Lalik died last month reportedly announced that the hospital would not terminate any pregnancy as the medical procedure contradicted “God’s law and the pope’s teaching”.
Interestingly, according to the Polish media outlet Gazeta Wyborcza, the hospital has not performed any abortion since at least 2018.