The death of a pregnant Polish woman has restarted the debate over abortion in one of Europe’s most devoutly Catholic countries, with activists saying she would still have had it if it weren’t for an almost complete ban on terminating pregnancies. might be alive.
Thousands of Poles took to the streets to protest in January this year, when from October 2020 a constitutional tribunal ruled that it was unconstitutional to terminate pregnancies with fetal defects, the most commonly used case for legal abortion. terminated.
Activists say the family of Isabella, a 30-year-old woman who died of septic shock in her 22nd week of pregnancy, said her family is the first to die after doctors waited for her unborn baby to stop beating. ruling.
The government says the verdict was not responsible for his death, but the doctors’ fault.
Isabella went to a hospital in September after the water broke, her family said. The scan had previously shown several defects in the fetus.
“The baby weighs 485 grams. For now, thanks to the abortion law, I have to lie down. And they can’t do anything. They’ll wait until it dies or starts something, And if not, I can expect sepsis,” Isabella said in a text message to her mother, private broadcaster TVN24 reported.
When a scan showed that the fetus was dead, doctors at the hospital in Pszczyna in southern Poland decided to perform a caesarean. The family’s lawyer, Jolanta Budzowska, said that Isabella’s heart stopped on the way to the operating room and she died despite efforts to revive her.
“I couldn’t believe it, I thought it wasn’t true,” Isabella’s mother, Barbara, told TVN24. “How could this happen to her in the hospital? After all she was there for help.”
Budzoska has started legal action over the treatment given to Isabella, accusing doctors of malpractice, but she also called the death “the result of the judgement.”
Pszczyna County Hospital said in a statement on its website that it shared the pain of all those affected by Izabella’s death, especially her family.
“It should be emphasized that all medical decisions were made taking into account the legal provisions and standards of conduct in force in Poland,” the hospital said.
The hospital on Friday said it has suspended two doctors who were on duty at the time of death.
The Supreme Medical Chamber, which represents Polish doctors, said it was not immediately able to comment.
When the matter came to public attention as a result of a tweet by Budzowska, the hashtag #anijednejwiecej or ‘not another’ spread on social media and protesters called for a change in the law.
However, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PIS) party rejected the claim that the constitutional tribunal’s decision was to blame for Izabela’s death, blaming it at fault by doctors.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday: “When it comes to the life and health of the mother… if it is in danger, it is possible to terminate the pregnancy and this decision does not change anything.”
PiS lawmaker Bartlomij Roblewski told Reuters that the case should not be used to “limit the right to life, kill all sick or disabled children.”
But activists say the decision has made doctors afraid to terminate the pregnancies even if the mother’s life is at risk.
“Izabella’s case clearly shows that the constitutional tribunal’s decision has had a chilling effect on doctors,” Ursjula Gryuk of the Federation for Women and Family Planning told Reuters.
“Even a condition that should not be questioned – the life and health of the mother – is not always recognized by doctors because they fear.”
In Ireland, the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar in 2012 after her death was denied has provoked a national outburst of mourning, credited by many as the catalyst for the liberalization of abortion laws.
Budzowska told Reuters there was a debate going on in Poland similar to the one in Ireland.
“Izabela’s family and I personally hope that this case will lead to a change in the law in Poland,” she said.
Poland’s president last year proposed changes to the law to make abortion possible in cases where a fetus was not viable. The law and justice-dominated parliament has yet to debate the bill.