UN Tells Poland: Don’t Ban Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome

International   Micaiah Bilger   Mar 22, 2018   |   6:00PM    Warsaw, Poland

The United Nations put pressure on Poland this week to keep abortions legal in cases involving unborn babies with disabilities.

While Poland protects unborn babies’ lives in most cases, it does allow abortions in cases of rape and incest, the life or health of the mother or severe fetal deformities – though “severe” is widely defined and unborn babies with disabilities like Down syndrome can be aborted. The Polish Ministry of Health reported 1,040 abortions in 2015.

This month, lawmakers are considering a bill to prohibit abortions on unborn babies with disabilities.

Jurist reports on Thursday, the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice urged Polish lawmakers to reject the bill – in essence, to continue allowing discrimination against unborn babies with disabilities.

The committee claimed the bill “risk[s] damaging women’s equality, dignity, autonomy, and bodily integrity, restricting their access to information and their rights to a private life and to health, and exposing them to forms of cruel and inhuman treatment.”

It claimed the ability to kill an unborn baby is “at the very core of [women’s] fundamental right to equality and privacy concerning intimate matters of physical and psychological integrity.” As the UN has in the past, it also claimed abortion is a “human right” for women.

Poland is one of the few pro-life countries left in Europe. Despite intense pressure from abortion activists and entities like the UN, Polish lawmakers have been working to further protect unborn babies’ rights.

In January, the parliament rejected a pro-abortion bill that would have legalized abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. After the vote, abortion activists vandalized the Law and Justice party (PiS) headquarters.

A strong Catholic country, Poland has been debating a complete abortion ban for years. In 2016, massive abortion protests prompted lawmakers to back away from legislation to support unborn babies’ right to life in all cases.

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However, the new bill is another attempt at progress by pro-life lawmakers. A citizen-led measure, pro-life organizers said they gathered eight times the number of signatures necessary to propose the bill to parliament. The Polish Constitution allows citizens to submit bills to the legislature if they receive at least 100,000 signatures.

AFP previously reported more about the effort:

According to Kaja Godek, one of the initiators of the “Zatrzymaj aborcje” (Stop Abortion) proposal, deformation of the foetus was the reason behind 96 percent of the legal abortions carried out in Poland in 2016. …

Godek told AFP that her group’s proposal was signed by 830,000 people in two months.

President Andrzej Duda, who is close to the Catholic Church, vowed in November to sign the initiative into law if it is adopted “in order to abolish the right to kill children with Down syndrome”.