Polish girl caught up in row has abortion


POLAND:A 14-YEAR-OLD Polish girl who became pregnant after being raped by a school friend has reportedly had an abortion, despite a vigorous campaign by anti-abortion campaigners.

The only confirmation of the abortion came from Poland's Catholic Information Agency, which reported that the girl, known by the pseudonym Agata, had an abortion in Gdansk last Tuesday.

Lawyers for the girl refused to confirm the report but indicated that the case was "over".

"The girl is back home now, and she and her mother are exhausted," said Monika Plateck, a lawyer involved in the case. "Her mother told me that her daughter was only interested now in being left in peace." The "Agata" case has parallels to Ireland's "X" case, but with one important distinction.

"The difference with the X case is that in Poland we already have limited provision for abortion," said Ms Plateck.

Polish law permits abortion if the mother's health is at risk, if the foetus shows serious deformities or, as in Agata's case, if the pregnancy was the result of a crime.

"The problem in Poland is that doctors are not applying the law, by citing their conscience, and then breach their obligation under the law to find another place for a woman to go," said Ms Plateck.

When Agata and her mother went to a local hospital in Lublin for an abortion, the gynaecologist refused and called in Fr Krzysztof Podstawka, an anti-abortion campaigner.

When the girl and her mother went to another clinic in Warsaw, Fr Podstawka was waiting with a group of campaigners and prevented the abortion taking place.

The priest filed charges in Lublin that the mother was "coercing" the girl to have an abortion - a crime in Poland. The juvenile court began hearing witnesses and ruled that the girl be put into emergency foster care.

"The juvenile court should have dismissed the case within an hour because the mother was just exercising her rights as legal guardian, in line with the girl's wishes," said Ms Plateck.

Now the girl is back home but her mother still faces criminal proceedings. The gynaecologist who called in the priest is unlikely to face criminal proceedings; breaching medical confidentiality in Poland is regulated by ethical guidelines rather than the law and there is no sign that a case will be taken.

Fr Podstawka has received support for his campaign from his superiors in the Polish Catholic hierarchy. "The ideology of death has won," said Polish bishop Stanislaw Stefanek. "This is a tragedy. Not only did a human being die, but the heart of the mother was also broken."

Polish women's groups are calling on the government to remove abortion from the criminal code and for better sex education programmes in schools.

Anti-abortion campaigners have started a new campaign against Poland's minister for health, Ewa Kopacz. She intervened in the Agata case at the last minute to find a clinic willing to perform the abortion. Now campaigners are calling for her to be excommunicated.