The death of a pregnant woman ignites the debate on the prohibition of abortion in Poland

Tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets to protest in January this year when an October 2020 Constitutional Court ruling came into force declaring the termination of pregnancies with fetal defects unconstitutional, eliminating the most widely used case for legal reasons. abortion.

Activists say Izabela, a 30-year-old woman in the 22nd week of pregnancy who according to her family died of septic shock after doctors waited for her unborn baby’s heart to stop beating, is the first woman to die. as a result of the failure.

The government says that the ruling was not the culprit of his death, but an error of the doctors.

Izabela went to the hospital in September after the water broke, her family said. Scans had previously shown numerous defects in the fetus.

“The baby weighs 485 grams. For now, thanks to the abortion law, I have to lie down. And there is nothing they can do. They will wait until I die or something starts, and if not, I can expect sepsis.” “Said Izabela in a text message to her mother, the private broadcaster TVN24 reported.

When a scan showed that the fetus was dead, doctors at Pszczyna hospital in southern Poland decided to perform a cesarean section. The family’s attorney, Jolanta Budzowska, said Izabela’s heart stopped on the way to the operating room and she died despite efforts to resuscitate her.

Protesters hold up lights, a Polish flag and a photograph of Iza as they participate in a demonstration on November 6, 2021 in Warsaw.

“I couldn’t believe it, I thought it wasn’t true,” Izabela’s mother, B├írbara, told TVN24. “How could something like this happen to her in the hospital? After all, she went there for help.”

Budzowska has taken legal action over Izabela’s treatment, accusing the doctors of malpractice, but also called the death “a consequence of the verdict.”

In a statement on its website, Pszczyna County Hospital said it shared the grief of all those affected by Izabela’s death, especially her family.

“It should … be noted that all medical decisions were made taking into account the legal provisions and standards of conduct in force in Poland,” the hospital said.

On Friday, the hospital said it had suspended two doctors who were on duty at the time of death.

The Supreme Medical Chamber, which represents Polish doctors, said it could not immediately comment.

Not one more

When the case came to the public’s attention as a result of a Budzowska tweet, the hashtag #anijednejwiecej or “not one more” spread through social media and was picked up by protesters demanding a change in the law.

However, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party rejects claims that the Constitutional Court ruling was to blame for Izabela’s death, attributing it to an error by doctors.

“When it comes to the life and health of the mother … if it is in danger, then it is possible to terminate the pregnancy and the ruling does not change anything,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday.

PiS legislator Bartlomiej Wroblewski told Reuters that the case should not be “exploited and used to limit the right to life, to kill all sick or disabled children.”

But activists say the ruling has made doctors fearful of terminating pregnancies even when the mother’s life is at risk.

“The Izabela case clearly shows that the Constitutional Court ruling has had a chilling effect on doctors,” Urszula Grycuk 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 are afraid.”

Overthrowing Roe could mean women seeking abortions have to travel hundreds of miles
In Ireland, the death of 31 years Savita Halappanavar in 2012, after being denied her layoff, it sparked a wave of nationwide grief that many see as a catalyst for the liberalization of abortion laws.

Budzowska told Reuters that a debate similar to the one that took place in Ireland was taking place in Poland.

“Both Izabela’s family and I personally hope that this case … will lead to a change in the law in Poland,” he said.

Poland’s president proposed changing the law last year to make abortions possible in cases where the fetus was not viable. Parliament dominated by Law and Justice has yet to debate the bill.

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