Crackdown on reproductive rights in Poland amid the ongoing crisis of the rule of law

Crackdown on reproductive rights in Poland amid the ongoing crisis of the rule of law

On 10 November 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Sylwia Spurek (Verts/ALE), Kira Marie Peter-Hansen (Verts/ALE), Margrete Auken (Verts/ALE), Anna Cavazzini (Verts/ALE), Markéta Gregorová (Verts/ALE), Erik Marquardt (Verts/ALE), Marie Toussaint (Verts/ALE), Mounir Satouri (Verts/ALE), Sarah Wiener (Verts/ALE), Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE), Tineke Strik (Verts/ALE), Monika Vana (Verts/ALE), Tilly Metz (Verts/ALE), Patrick Breyer (Verts/ALE), Kim Van Sparrentak (Verts/ALE), Thomas Waitz (Verts/ALE), Mikuláš Peksa (Verts/ALE), Ville Niinistö (Verts/ALE), Terry Reintke (Verts/ALE), Claude Gruffat (Verts/ALE), Niklas Nienaß (Verts/ALE), Grace O’Sullivan (Verts/ALE), Sergey Lagodinsky (Verts/ALE), Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (Verts/ALE), Alice Kuhnke (Verts/ALE), Alviina Alametsä (Verts/ALE), Hannah Neumann (Verts/ALE), Daniel Freund (Verts/ALE), Philippe Lamberts (Verts/ALE), Ernest Urtasun (Verts/ALE), Katrin Langensiepen (Verts/ALE) and Saskia Bricmont (Verts/ALE), posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“On 22 October 2020 the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland, consisting of unlawfully appointed judges, ruled that abortion in cases of foetal defects is unconstitutional. This politically motivated decision is yet another attack on the rule of law in Poland. The ruling amounts to a near total ban on abortion, as 97.6 % of legal terminations carried out in Poland in 2019 were due to foetal defects.


1. What actions will the Commission take with regard to Poland’s lack of implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgments on abortion (violations of Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and of R.R. v. Poland (2011)) that constitutes a violation of the rule of law?

2. Taking into account the opinion of the UN Committee against Torture, which states that denying access to safe and legal abortion is a form of torture, what measures will the Commission take to prevent further breaches of reproductive rights in Poland?

3. How does the Commission intend to react to Poland’s actions, which have a profound impact on women and their health, taking into account the commitments expressed in the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 to achieve a gender-equal Europe?”

On 15 February 2021, Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Commission is aware of the developments in Poland, which can affect women’s rights. It is committed to using all the tools available under the Treaties to uphold the protection of fundamental rights and the Rule of Law — a pre-condition to ensure equal treatment before the law and for the defence of EU citizens’ rights.

In the article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union procedure launched by the Commission in 2017, the Commission raised concerns over the independence and legitimacy of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. As recalled in the 2020 Rule of Law Report, these concerns have so far not been resolved.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are at the core of the fundamental right to gender equality and women’s rights.

However, the Member States are responsible for the definition of health policy and the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care.

Union action complements national policies and is directed towards improving public health, preventing illness, and obviating major sources of danger to health through information, best practice exchange and education. The Commission promotes cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, lends support to their actions.

The EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 presents the Commission’s policy objectives on gender equality. The Commission supports good practice exchanges on health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. It funds organisations tackling violence against women and supports women’s human rights in external action.”


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