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Poland Rules Abortions For Defects Are Unconstitutional, Severely Limiting Access To Legal Abortions

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Poland’s top court ruled Thursday that aborting a fetus that has congenital defects is unconstitutional, severely restricting access to abortion in the heavily Catholic country.

11 of the 13 judges ruled in favor of the ban, while two judges did not support the majority ruling, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner tweeted it is a “sad day for women’s rights.”

“Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in #Poland amounts to a ban & violates #HumanRights. Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford & even greater ordeal for all others. A sad day for #WomensRights.”

The decision, which cannot be appealed, comes after right-wing lawmakers argued that terminating a fetus due to fetal defects violates a constitutional provision that calls for protecting the life of every individual. Abortion for congenital defects is the most common reason for abortion in Poland, which has some of the toughest restrictions. In 2019, there were 1,110 legal abortions, mostly due to fetal defects, per the AP. (RELATED: These States Say Abortions Are Essential During The Coronavirus Crisis)

Karolina Wieckiewicz, a lawyer and activist with the Abortion Without Borders rights group, told The New York Times that women often leave Poland to get an abortion since they’re so restricted.

“In practice it takes weeks, sometimes months” to obtain a legal abortion. “Some people decide to risk the battle in Poland; others look for alternatives.”

The court also ruled that terminating a pregnancy due to defects was similar to eugenics.

Once the decision takes effect, abortions will only be permitted in cases of rape or incest or if it’s determined that the mother’s health at risk, according to BBC.