Death of pregnant woman ignites debate about abortion ban in Poland

Activists say she is the first person to die due to recent restrictions that came in effect in January.

Zaina Alibhai
Friday 05 November 2021 18:19
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The death of a pregnant woman has sparked protests over the restrictive abortion rights in Poland.

The 30-year-old woman, known only as Izabela, died of septic shock in her 22nd week of pregnancy in September after going into hospital when her waters broke.

Previous scans had shown numerous defects in the foetus however under the recent near-total ban on the termination of pregnancies, doctors did not perform an abortion.

Instead, they waited until the foetus died before performing a Caesarean.

The family lawyer said Izabela’s heart stopped on the way to the operating theatre where she died, despite efforts to resuscitate her.

Poland has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe which, before the recent restriction, dictated women were only allowed to have an abortion in three cases: if the pregnancy was a result of a crime such as rape, if the woman’s life was at risk, or if the foetus had severe deformities.

However, the Constitutional Tribunal last year ruled congenital defects were unconstitutional - a move which saw thousands take to the streets in protest.

Izabela’s family blame the controversial change in law for her death but the government has shunned responsibility, instead blaming an error at the hospital.

Pszczyna County Hospital said its doctors and midwives had done everything possible to save both the mother and foetus, and shared the pain of her loved ones.

A statement read: “The only factor guiding the medical procedure was concern for the health and life of the patient and the foetus.

“Doctors and midwives did everything in their power, they fought a difficult battle for the patient and her child.”

The hospital added an investigation was underway but insisted “all medical decisions were made taking into account the legal provisions and standards of conduct in force in Poland”.

The two doctors who were on duty at the time of her death have since been suspended.

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