Justyna Wydrzyńska helped a pregnant woman inadvertently obtain abortion medication. The woman finally had a miscarriage without medication – due to stress. When she retrieved the pack of pills, the police showed up at her home. Justyně faces up to three years in prison for helping to attempt a medical abortion. This is the first process of this type in Europe. It will take place in Warsaw on April 8.
Should the trial of the accused serve to deter other pro-abortion activists, or does the prosecution rather want it to be discreet?
I’m not sure myself. Significantly, we did not publish the case; this was done by public television, with which the prosecutor’s office often shares information. Before I received the indictment myself, TVP had already announced that it was ready. He mentions that I’m a pro-abortion activist, which is also important because it looks like I should be punished not just for helping get medicine, but for all of my activities.
Another thing is how quickly the charge was made. The investigation ended in December 2021, the trial takes place on April 8, 2022. Four months. Polish courts are not that fast. Our lawyers assumed it would take at least a year. So we expect it to be a politicized process, but we’re not sure.
The indictment mentions that I am a pro-abortion activist, which is significant because it seems that I should be punished not only for helping to obtain drugs, but for all my activities.
Are there any legal implications for Anna, who helped you get those drugs?
Polish law states that a woman can terminate her pregnancy independently until the 22nd week of pregnancy. Also, the pills were confiscated from her, so there was no abortion. It is not well known that women have the ability to perform pharmacological abortions. Even the police don’t know Polish laws, because when they were told that a woman had “abortion pills” at her disposal, the police went to her house. Helping to terminate a pregnancy is a criminal offence. However, this aid is not precisely defined in the law, which has blocking effects.
Doctors are even afraid to share information about the possibility of performing a medical abortion themselves, because they fear that they will not be held criminally responsible. The law I am talking about was created in 1993, when the possibility of an independent pharmacological abortion did not exist because the appropriate drugs were not yet available. The law is therefore written in such a way that people who want an abortion feel alone and abandoned, and they are also ashamed to ask for help.
Read also: Anti-abortion policy
Abortion control is not limited to Poland and Texas. Slovakia has also repeatedly faced efforts by extremists and conservative forces to curtail reproductive rights. An activist from the feminist group Nebememe silie, which is loudly protesting against laws restricting abortions in Slovakia, explains why local anti-abortion activities are even more dangerous this time around and why they shouldn’t avoid the atheist Czech Republic either.
Why Reducing Abortions Will Never Help Anyone
If performing a separate pharmacological abortion is legal, are the drugs that can induce it generally available?
There are no “abortion pills” on the market, but substances that can induce abortion are found in drugs used primarily to treat stomach ulcers. Doctors know the effects of these drugs and know that they can be used to induce an abortion, but they do not prescribe them for this purpose. So if you want to get them you have to lie to your doctor saying you have another health condition. And even so, your doctor will not prescribe these drugs directly, but alternatives that no longer have abortifacient effects. Pharmacological abortion pills can be ordered from support organizations that do, eg. women help women Where Women on the Web.
Why is it important to help get these drugs when you can get them yourself?
Women are not informed and doctors who may know do not inform them. Medical abortion has existed since 2006 and is a method recommended by the WHO. We have next Women in the network and Aborcy Dream Team, we inform women from the age of sixteen and no one has condemned us for it yet. Women generally seek information about termination of pregnancy only when they need it. I myself had an abortion at the age of thirty-three and until then I had no interest in this subject. I was not an activist. When I accidentally got pregnant, I started searching the internet. I decided that it was not possible to keep information about safe methods of pregnancy termination secret. In March this year, the WHO even issued a recommendation which clearly states that people who have experience and knowledge but who are not health professionals can support others in the medical abortion.
More than once I have met a woman who had just learned that her fetus had died in the womb, but the doctors forced her to go on and wait for a miscarriage.
You’re such an abortion doula – what exactly does that mean?
I am an abortion guide. The process of terminating pregnancy is not just about taking medication. This is when we confirm the pregnancy, choose the method, and discuss which one is appropriate. We inform the woman of what can happen and we are with her when she takes the medication so that she feels safe.
It seems that such a doula can be of great support even for women who have had a miscarriage during a planned pregnancy.
Read also: The priest raped their son, the family pretended not to know
The toughening of the abortion law is not the only problem that worries Poland. Attacks on LGBTQ+ people or clergy sex crimes to a mind-boggling degree. We talked about journalist, feminist, activist and politician Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska about the return of our northern neighbor to the Middle Ages. Please note that some of the reported cases of child abuse are truly appalling.
A moving testimony on the situation of the Polish Church
More than once I have met a woman who called us and found out she had just died of a fetus in the womb, but the doctors forced her to go on and wait for a miscarriage. It is our daily bread, we also support these women. This process can be accelerated; it is not at all necessary to force women who have lost a pregnancy to have an abortion. Doctors have the tools to speed it up – it’s unclear why they don’t use them and condemn women to suffering.
What’s the situation with Anna, whom you helped get the “abortion pill” now?
Anna turned to the organization Aborigine without borders. It was at the very beginning of the pandemic, and there were reports that some countries were closing their borders. She was very determined to end the unwanted pregnancy. She ordered pills from women help womenbut they haven’t come for a very long time. She was almost 12 weeks pregnant and informed us that she did not want to wait for medication and would go overseas.
But when she confided in her husband, he began to blackmail her. They had a small child and the woman wanted to take him with her – but her partner threatened that if she did she would accuse him of kidnapping her. I was in an equally abusive relationship, so her situation affected me on a personal level as well. I had the medicine available for my own use and decided to give it to her. When Anna’s medicine kit arrived, someone – apparently her husband – reported her to the police.
Would you do it again if you knew the consequences?
Yes. Our laws are bad. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with trying to help another person in a time of crisis in their life. I know she doesn’t regret it, so I think I did the right thing.
The interview was first published in our sister magazine Heroine.pl.
Translation: Anna Saskova Plasova