Justyna Wydrzynska, a woman in Poland, has been sentenced to eight months of community service for helping another woman get abortion pills.
Abortions are only allowed in Poland instances of rape, incest or if there is a threat to the woman’s health or life, which account for only about 2% of all legal abortions in the country in recent years.
Wydrzynska, part of a group helping people in Poland to access abortion abroad, said she had sent the pills to a woman, known as Ania, who had called the Abortion Dream Team hotline.
Ania was a victim of domestic violence and her husband had stopped her from traveling to Germany to get an abortion, Wydrzynska said, adding she already had the pills at home for personal use.
In 2021, Poland tightened its laws to outlaw abortion for fetal abnormalities, banning abortion for almost all cases in the deeply Catholic country.
Prior to the ruling, 1,074 out of the 1,100 legal abortions performed in Poland in 2019 were on the grounds of fetal abnormalities, and the ruling effectively banned abortions in the country, according to the New York Times.
This is the first time Poland has convicted someone for aiding an abortion.
“I do not feel guilty. Hearing the details of Ania’s situation in this courtroom has only strengthened my conviction that I made the right choice,” Wydrzynska said.
After the ruling, protesters gathered outside the court with signs treading #JakJustyna (#IAmJustyna).
“Justyna should have never been put on trial in the first place because what she did should never be a crime,” Amnesty International said.
“By supporting a woman who asked for help, Justyna showed compassion. By defending the right to safe abortion in Poland, Justyna showed courage. Today’s craven judgment shows neither. The conviction must be overturned,” it added.
Wydrzynska intends to appeal.
In October 2020, Poland’s tribunal president, Julia Przyłębska, had said that allowing for the abortion of fetuses that are malformed is “incompatible” with the country’s constitution.
She said that terminating a pregnancy based on the health of the fetus is “a directly forbidden form of discrimination” as the Polish Constitution guarantees a right to life, the New York Times reported.
Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, and women are often forced to seek illegal abortions or travel abroad for the procedure.
Women’s rights groups estimate that up to 200,000 abortions are performed illegally or abroad each year, according to the Guardian.