The constitutional court of Poland struck down a discriminatory abortion law Thursday that allows unborn babies with disabilities to be aborted.
The 1993 Polish law prohibits abortions in most circumstances. However, it allows exceptions “when prenatal tests or other medical grounds indicate a high probability of severe and irreversible impairment of the fetus or an incurable life-threatening disease,” according to the Polish News.
AFT reports the constitutional court agreed with pro-life challengers Thursday that the exception violates constitutionally-protected human rights.
In her ruling, Chief Justice Julia Przylebska said the law is “incompatible” with the Polish constitution, according to the report.
The ruling could save thousands of babies’ lives. Polish health officials reported 1,100 abortions in 2019, according to the report.
Irene Donadio, of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, told Euronews in April that about 97 percent of abortions in Poland are done because of fetal anomalies.
Pro-lifers have been working to end the discriminatory exception for years. In 2019, they challenged the constitutionality of the exception, arguing that it discriminates against a certain class of human beings, Polish News reports.
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“Since the attribute of human dignity belongs to man from the moment of the inception of human life, and the protection of the right to life is a direct consequence of the protection of human dignity, … the Constitution of the Republic of Poland leads to the conclusion that the right to life is a human right in stage of development, at which he is also entitled to the protection of human dignity, and therefore also in the prenatal period,” they wrote in their petition to the court.
They said the abortion exception violates anti-discrimination laws and should be overturned, the Polish News reports.
“… there is an obligation to protect human life in the prenatal phase and the prohibition of discriminating against conceived human beings by public authorities,” the pro-life petitioners continued. “Since life begins at conception, from the first day of pregnancy, constitutional protection applies to human life in every phase of it.”
Meanwhile, pro-abortion groups told the court that ending the exception would amount to “torture” for women, the BBC reports.
“It’s inhuman, it’s despicable honestly to make anyone carry a pregnancy to term, especially if the fetus is malformed, and 98 percent of legal abortions carried out in Poland are due to fetal malformations,” abortion activist Antonina Lewandowska told the news outlet.
According to Polish News, about 800 doctors also signed an open letter to the court arguing that ending the exception could “inflict or prolong suffering” for mothers who want to abort their unborn babies after a disability diagnosis.
In April, Law and Justice legislators introduced a bill to protect unborn babies with disabilities from discrimination by ending the abortion exception. President Andrzej Duda said he supports the bill.
The country also allows abortions in cases involving rape, incest and threats to the mother’s life.
Poland is predominantly Catholic. Despite on-going pressure from the United Nations, other European countries and abortion advocacy groups, many of its lawmakers have remained committed to protecting unborn babies’ lives.