Today two horrific stories have been playing on my mind:
The first of a 14 year old girl in Poland who was raped by a school friend. She and her mother decided that she should have an abortion. Even though abortion is illegal in Poland under ‘normal’ circumstances it is legal if the pregnancy is the result of a crime. Nevertheless, when the young girl and her mother went to her doctor the doctor not only refused to perform the abortion but called in Fr Krzystof Podstaka, an anti-abortion campaigner, to ‘talk’ to the girl. When the girl and her mother went to a different clinic is Warsaw Fr Podstaka was there this time with a group of campaigners and managed to prevent the abortion taking place. Fr Podstaka also filed charges against the girl’s mother accusing her of ‘coercing’ her daughter into having the abortion. Although the court should have dismissed the case immediately as her mother was acting as the child’s legal guardian, the court started hearing witnesses that the girl should be put into foster care.
Thankfully, at the last minute Poland’s minister for health Ewa Kopacz intervened and found a clinic willing to perform the abortion. Kopacz now finds herself the focus of anti-abortionist’s campaigns; the girl’s mother still faces criminal charges. The first doctor who called Fr Podstaka faces no legal recrimination over breach of confidentiality as this is only an ethical guideline in Poland and not a legal requirement.
In Romania, an 11 year old girl, the victim of a horrendous rape by her uncle and is now 20 weeks pregnant is going through similar political wrangling. In Romania abortion is legal to up to just 14 weeks of pregnancy. The girl’s family did not suspect that their 11 year old was pregnant until her 17th week. The girl’s option is now to go to Britain to have this abortion performed as, thankfully, we have kept our 24 week limit. But things are not that easy for her. Two separate local government committees have passed two separate and contradictory rulings on her case. One has stated she should be allowed go to Britain, the other stating that as the mother and foetus are physically healthy the pregnancy should continue.
One wonders why these people do not take into account the mental health of this girl who has obviously suffered severe trauma after a rape and now pregnancy. Why do they insist she should be further tortured by carrying the pregnancy to term?
A government committee will rule tomorrow as to whether this girl’s ordeal will be put to an end and allow her to travel to the UK.
Luckily in the UK very few abortions take place so late in the term of a pregnancy but we are equally lucky that the option still remains. I think these two cases serve as a stark reminder as why the 24 week limit is so very important for women in the UK.