Abortion must be accessible for women across the EU

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Dear Ms. von der Leyen,

It is with deep concern that the women of the European Union have watched the latest developments of the member state Poland. Profound democratic values are at risk as the government takes advantage of the current crisis in order to expand their power.

Equality is a fundamental human right and, in the logical consequence, abortion must be too.
This is not a matter of the moral aspects of abortion; it is about the sheer impossibility of gender equality when half of the population is being deprived of their right to decide over their own body.

“Abortion is a pandemic much worse than Coronavirus. It claims more victims and is always deadly.” These are the words we were made to hear from the Polish parliament. Women deciding not to continue an unwanted pregnancy are publicly stigmatised as murderers, where the women forced to carry their unplanned foetus to term often become single parents; facing institutional discrimination and a proven higher risk of poverty (Gdansk Institute for Market Economics).

As it stands, abortion in Poland is legal under only three conditions: in case of rape, in case of danger to the mother, and - perhaps most significantly - in case of severe damages to the foetus. The amended draft now proposes severe penalties be imposed for women who choose to end their pregnancies for this reason - even if the foetus is unviable or features significant dysfunctions.

Having grown up with a severely disabled older sister, I can only appeal to politicians and the public not to force this situation upon anyone without their input. Giving birth to a child which may never be able to live independently, could experience unbearable pain and suffering every day of their lives, and might never be capable of living the life they wish is a life-altering decision. A decision that should be left to the mother - not to the Polish government.

It is no surprise that these restrictions are going to be imposed now - in the midst of a global pandemic when the possibilities for the public to organise protests are highly limited. The spreading of Covid-19 must be prevented; but not in the place of democratic values and basic human rights.

I’m calling upon you, Ms von der Leyen, to stand together with us in solidarity with Polish women, because abortion is not a national matter; it is a fundamental right that must be granted to every woman unconditionally across the European Union for the sake of equality and our shared democratic values.

Barbara Julia Edlinger