BUDAPEST – If Americans think that Donald Trump’s call to jail women who have abortions can’t ever become law, they should consider the case of Poland. A draconian new bill, introduced by radical pro-life groups and officially supported by the leadership of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, would send women to prison for up to five years for “prenatal murder.”
Since last fall, when the right-wing PiS took power, the country’s democratic backsliding has caused increasing alarm, both at home and abroad. Perhaps the most worrying move by the new government has been its methodical dismantling of the Constitutional Court. Despite this, the response of US President Barack Obama’s administration has so far been muted. British Prime Minister David Cameron has even openly defended Poland’s illiberal leaders.
But Obama, Cameron, and other Western leaders now have nine million reasons to reconsider their approach – one reason for each Polish woman of reproductive age, for whom the lack of effective constitutional checks and balances is no longer an abstract political problem. Under the proposed Polish law, the termination of a pregnancy from the moment of conception would be deemed murder.
There are no exceptions to this, other than “averting a direct threat” to the mother’s life. An 11-year-old girl raped by a relative will have to carry the pregnancy to term, unless doctors (risking prison) determine that the pregnancy will kill her imminently. A woman will have to carry an ectopic pregnancy, or a fetus so damaged that it cannot live, until complications become severe enough that her life is “directly” in danger. The day-after pill and in vitro fertilization will be criminalized.