Catholics For Choice Conscience VOL. XXXIV—NO. 1 2013 : Page 39

selves to the risk of unplanned pregnancy. All these factors lead us to an estimate of the number of abortions in Poland— around 15,000-17,000 each year. If we com-pare this to the number of Polish women of reproductive age (11.7 million) the issue of abortion is not statistically significant. Why should anyone care about it? MYTHS ABOUT A CCESS AND CRIMINALIZATION Poles have a very particular attitude toward the law. Sociologists define the phenom-enon as “anomie”—a widespread social consent to ignore the law. However, access tion. The results show a stable pattern: about 55 percent of respondents are for legal abortion access and 45 percent are against—without significant differences related to variables such as age, residence, economic status, gender or religious beliefs. The lack of any clear demographic division between the two groups leads some to simply answer: society is indifferent, or, society accepts the current situation. There are many factors that confirm this hypoth-esis: for instance, the relatively small number of grassroots organizations inter-ested in the liberalization of the law; the lack of social reactions to any attempts to matched. But even that mismatch means nothing to the general public, which is jaded by the exploitation of the abortion debate in the political arena. Polish politicians cynically use the abortion issue as a political tool. Abortion was the reason for many political divorces on the right wing of the Polish political scene. Opinions on abortion among poli-ticians could change in the span of a few days. Even already-oppressive legislation could be made more restrictive. Every year we observe attempts in that direction. The current political division of power in Poland seems to guarantee keeping the Faced with the resources of the insti tutional church, Polish NGO s that might be sympathetic to abortion rights have withdrawn their interest from the issue. to abortion is stringently limited by law, so we cannot directly say that people should stop following that law. This double stan-dard is confirmed by the number of the advertisements for services called “inducing menstruation” (sometimes with a bonus: “with anesthetic”). These services are widely available, but the price varies greatly from around $300 up to $500, depending on the region or the reputation of the doctor. Is that a big sum in Poland? Yes and no. If someone is in real need, it’s not a problem to find this kind of money. Given these conditions, the number of investiga-tions and prosecutions related to breaking the abortion law should be significant. But it’s not. There are an average of two cases per year brought against doctors related to abortion. How many have been sentenced? In last 10 years—about 10. Keep in mind that there are about 15,000 gynecologists in Poland. The social importance of these scant prosecutions? Zero. Again, why should anyone care about it? MYTHS ABOUT ATTITUDES liberalize or tighten the abortion law; and the absence of any political will to change the legislation in any direction. If most Poles are content with the current situa-tion, why should anyone to care about it? IS THERE ANYONE WHO CARES? The legal limits to abortion were imple-mented in 1993. Since that year, we have had multiple research studies and surveys about abortion in Poland. Most of them dealt with societal attitudes toward abor-In 1993, coincidentally, the Polish govern-ment signed a concordat with the Holy See. The abortion legislation was used as a kind of gift for Pope John Paul II in thanks for his spiritual support during the struggle against Communism. Since that moment, we have seen a growing number of NGO s working against abortion, which are almost entirely related to, or supported and funded by, the Catholic hierarchy. Faced with the resources of the insti-tutional church, Polish NGO s that might be sympathetic to abortion rights have withdrawn their interest from the issue. Out of a total of over 120,000 NGO s oper-ating in Poland, only two openly fight for abortion rights. Their will and ability to fight are based on external funding, as well as the social recognition of their role as advocates and service providers. But are they strong enough to overturn the overwhelming power of the Catholic hierarchy? The answer is no: the two sides of the abortion debate are not evenly status quo as part of their public relations strategy. Proposals from the opposition go in the same direction. There is no common strategy for change, no cooperation with NGO s, no will for cooperation or listening to the opinions of stakeholders. Thus, any proposals about abortion couldn’t be con-sidered to be a priority, or even a serious political activity. Do politicians really care about the legalization of abortion? No. So what should happen to change that? The current situation seems to be a socially agreed-upon stasis, which can only change when one philosophy on access to abortion wins. Paradoxically, I believe that the necessary ingredient for the liberalization of Poland’s abortion law will be either the complete abolition of all abortion rights, or at least the serious threat that this may come to pass. This paradox is probably rooted in an intrinsic element of the Polish personality. A full ban on abortion—one that causes all the thinly veiled advertisements to disappear from the newspapers—would show people what they have really lost. It would bring women like my school friend into the spotlight, instead of allowing society to ignore their needs. Only that shock will shake up society and give Polish citizens the impetus to fight for their rights. n VOL . X X XIV—NO. 1 2 0 13 39

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