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Reproductive exodus- Quo vadis Polonia?

It has been a year since millions of Poles took to the streets to protest the barbaric plan of total abortion, contraception and IVF ban. It was the first and only time when the ruling party, PiS (Law and Justice) gave up. In the last two years they destroyed all Constitutional basis of the country: the rule of law is no longer in action, Armed Forces and Military Police are just tools to oppress the citizens, public healthcare system is just a sad joke and human rights are a slogan valid abroad. How do Poles deal with limiting their reproductive rights? Yes, right! Go abroad!

The war on our reproductive rights has begun shortly after the fall of communism when the new government had to pay off to the Roman Catholic Church for its support in getting communists a rid. Bishops very much wanted to pursue their crazy vision of „protection of unborn babies” and they got what they asked for. In 1993 abortion ban got into force. In theory it allows abortion in 3 situations: (I) maternal life is in danger, (II) fetus has serious and untreatable disease/defect(s), and (III) pregnancy is a direct effect of crime (rape, incest, etc.). In real life obtaining legal abortion is a kind of „mission impossible”.

Catholic extremists didn’t stop their war on women and have been asking for more and more: no evidence-based sex ed, no access to healthcare for unaccompanied minors, no coverage for contraception and fertility treatments. They got it all. In 2015 they pursued centrist government to implement IVF law which bans single and homosexual women from accessing assisted reproductive technologies. It was a milestone for many of us who were personally hurt by the new law. While the public healthcare budget is tight we understand that there are other priorities than state-funded IVF but how the hell can anyone limit how I spend my own, hard-earned and highly-taxed money?! It was a kind of slap on the face and the straw which broke the camel’s back. At that time no one listened to us when we were protesting! Literally, no one…

Today the ex-health minister Dr Bartosz Arłukowicz, author of this draconian law is the first one who cries out loud that PiS may limit county councils’ financial support for infertile couples to obtain IVF (which is less than circa 5% of money earned by the fertility clinics). How double-faced it is to be such arrogant misogynist in 2015 and pretend to be a friend and savior of women in 2017 just because it’s trendy?! My stomach turns upside-down when I see him „fighting” for the reproductive rights!

Paper-pushers from the government and opposition are arguing with each other at the Parliament but what does it mean to an average woman? NOTHING! If you become pregnant but you don’t want to become a mother or your baby has lethal birth defects there is no way you can get a legal termination of pregnancy in Poland. You can either risk being caught and imprisoned for using Women on Web telemedicine service or simply go abroad and be treated with dignity and respect. When you give birth to a child with a serious disease you most likely will go abroad for his/her treatment. If you’re affected by infertility you can get basic treatments for a huge price in Poland but if you need more advanced treatment options you’ll fly out to Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands or the UK. The government won’t help you at all but would happily take legal actions against you and send you to the prison.

Quoting my ex-boss „Why do you care? You make money, speak foreign languages and have contacts abroad, so you will get whatever you need. It’s not your business that „the dark mass” can’t get fertility treatments while you’re working for the gov and are privileged.” is probably what all the politicians think. I left my supposedly privileged position to be never associated with the PiS regime. I become one of the first political refugees but many have followed. For some it is too late and now they are imprisoned for political and social activities. Somehow I understand those who still work for the government: they have rent to pay, children to feed and dress, elderly parents to take care of. I don’t know if there was no conflict between me and my boss because of the Minister of Health I might still be holding a senior position at one of the ministries and live my happy privileged life and going abroad for reproductive care… Who knows…

Now, here I am working on the totally not prestigious position but I no longer fear that I am a part of the Kaczyński’s regime and- God forbid!- I am one of the SRHR oppressors! Has it changed anything in my very own war with infertility? Not yet. Current place of residence should potentially help or at least I thought so when I furiously resigned from my all so fancy job in Poland. I admit I was expecting to have my dreams come true as soon as I put my feet on the Swedish soil but I now know it was far from realistic plan. Hopefully it will happen as soon as I win the not yet finished war with the MoH and the National Health Fund to clear out my mind and feel free from the Polish oppressive system. Fingers crossed for a baby in two years 🙂

On this 1st anniversary of the Black Protest I wish all of us a full access to free reproductive healthcare!

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.

Margaret Sanger

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Karina Sasin

Naukowczyni, aktywistka na rzecz praw reprodukcyjnych. Redaktor Naukowa "Chcemy Być Rodzicami". Wielokrotna stypendystka m.in. Organizacji Narodów Zjednoczonych, Rządu USA (NIH) i Krajowego Funduszu Na Rzecz Dzieci. Organizatorka konferencji International Meeting on MRKH Syndrome. Po godzinach miłośniczka cukiernictwa i dalekich podróży ;-)