Nov 02, 2021
Reproductive rights advocates across Poland on Monday carried signs reading, "Not one more woman" and "Enough" at candlelit vigils for a 30-year-old woman whose death has been identified as the first directly resulting from the country's extreme restrictions on abortion care.
The woman, identified publicly only as Izabela, died at a hospital in southern Poland in September, but her death was not reported until late last week when it sparked outrage across the country.
"The doctors were waiting for the fetus to die. They waited and watched for the fetus' heart to stop beating. She also had a heart that kept beating!"
According to the doctors who treated her, Izabela died when she was 22 weeks pregnant with her second child after she was admitted to the hospital due to a lack of amniotic fluid--a serious condition during pregnancy.
"According to reports from the campaign group Abortion Dream Team," wrote Sian Norris at Byline Times on Tuesday, "she told her family that the doctors had chosen to wait until the fetus died, rather than intervene with an abortion. This decision was taken as a result of the country's abortion ban. The fetus eventually died, before the woman passed away of septic shock."
The doctors who treated the woman said that "all medical decisions were made taking into account the legal provisions and standards of conduct in force in Poland," nearly a year after the country's right-wing government announced a new abortion restriction would go into effect.
The new law, which a constitutional tribunal ruled on last year, bans abortion care in cases of fetal abnormalities. Pregnant people in Poland can now obtain abortions only in cases of rape or incest or when the pregnant patient's life is deemed to be in sufficient danger.
"The doctors were waiting for the fetus to die," said Abortion Dream Team, which is based in Poland. "They waited and watched for the fetus' heart to stop beating. She also had a heart that kept beating!"
"Her heart was beating, too," became a rallying cry at the demonstrations and vigils that took place in cities including Krakow and Warsaw on Monday.
"Women in Poland could access legal abortion for fatal fetal abnormality just a year ago," tweeted Magdalena Furgalska, a lecturer at York Law School in England. "But once attained rights are not guaranteed. Especially the rights of women, especially in times of political and social crises."
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is currently challenging Texas' extreme abortion ban at the U.S. Supreme Court, warned that Izabela's death was "a direct result of the chilling effect of Poland's harmful and restrictive abortion law."
"Poland must urgently ensure that no one's health or lives are endangered due to legal restrictions on abortion," the group said.
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