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Polish court convicts activist over abortion pill assistance

March 14, 2023

Women's rights activist Justyna Wydrzynska has been sentenced to eight months of community service. Poland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

Justyna Wydrzynska in the Warsaw courtroom
The Polish women's rights activist was convicted of providing assistance for an abortionImage: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP

A Warsaw court on Tuesday convicted women's rights activist Justyna Wydrzynska of helping a victim of domestic violence access abortion pills.

Wydrzynska was sentenced to eight months of community service.

Poland has some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in Europe. In 2020, Poland's constitutional court struck down a law that permitted abortions in the case of fetuses with congenital defects.

Wydrzynska is the is the co-founder of the Abortion Dream Team. The organization provides information for women seeking abortions.

What are the charges against Wydrzynska?

Prosecutors charged the activist with "helping with an abortion," a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. While self-administering abortion pills is legal in Poland, providing assistance is not.

The activist said she would appeal the verdict.

The Warsaw court did not allow some media representatives to attend the proceedings, citing a "lack of space," Polish magazine Polityka reported.

Prosecutors cited "significant social harm" caused by the termination of "life in the prenatal period" in closing comments, according to Polityka.

The ultraconservative think tank Ordo Iuris, which joined as a party to the proceedings, had called for Wydrzynska to receive a prison sentence of one year, arguing that she had "boasted" of committing the crime.

Wydrzynska's defense requested that the organization be excluded from the proceedings, according to Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

What did the defense say about the case?

"This state is guilty," Wydrzynska said after the ruling, according to Polityka. "It has failed me," she said, and, she added, "millions of women in this country."

Wydrzynska said she was contacted by a "woman in a desperate situation" in 2021. "She told me that her aggressive husband was trying to stop her from having an abortion," Wydrzynska said.

"I felt touched by her story because I had had a similar experience. I felt that I needed to help her," she added.

Defense lawyer Anna Bergiel said the case set a "precedent." She argued that the woman who took the abortion pill did so for "her own good and for the good of her children."

"She knew that another child would make it even more difficult to escape the vicious cycle of domestic violence," Bergiel said.

Abortion Dream Team activist Kinga Jelinska told Gazeta Wyborcza: "We have abortions and we're going to keep having them."

sdi/ar (AP, AFP)