Last updated on April 26th, 2022 at 03:36 am
On 8 April 2022, the trial of Justyna Wydrzyńska, an activist promoting universal access to abortion, who provided abortion pills to a woman who was a victim of domestic violence, began before the District Court for Warsaw-Praga. The defendant faces up to three years in prison. The case arouses great emotion due to its nature, and the Ordo Iuris Institute joined the proceedings as a social organization.
What is the case about?
Justyna Wydrzyńska is accused of providing abortion pills to a woman who was a victim of domestic violence. Her husband alerted the police, who confiscated the funds and then initiated proceedings.
The case was heard in the District Court for Warsaw-Praga. As scheduled, the hearing began at 10 a.m., but before that, activists in favor of liberalizing anti-abortion laws gathered in front of the building. Among them were many women holding banners reading “Like Justina,” expressing that they would have behaved in the same way as the defendant. Activists beat drums and chanted, “Honor and glory to the aborters! Abortion was, is and will be.” Prolife activists were also present. The defendant appeared at the courthouse accompanied by activists from the Abortion Dream Team. On the website of this organization you can read the following information about its activities: We are an informal initiative to de-abortionize abortion. We want to talk about abortion normally, without taboos, without drama, without misrepresentation, without fear. We travel around Poland and talk about pharmacological abortion and other methods of terminating pregnancy. We do this because it is important and needed. Our goal is to spread knowledge about the pharmacological method of abortion and to promote positive messages about abortion based on the real experiences of people who have had abortions and those who support them.
The case arouses great emotions, especially on the side of pro-abortion activists and pro-life circles. Journalists, both domestic and foreign, were also present in the courtroom. Due to the small size of the courtroom, only representatives of Oko.press, Gazeta Wyborcza, TVN24 and the person preparing the documentary film about Wydrzyńska were allowed in. Journalists did not hide their surprise that the hearing was held in such a small room, which in their opinion was a sign of limiting access for media representatives.
The case was also attended by a representative of the Ordo Iuris Institute, who stated that he intended to represent the public interest. As we read in the Institute’s press release, “[a] social organization may participate in the proceedings if there is a need to protect a social interest or an individual interest covered by the statutory tasks of that organization, in particular the protection of freedoms and human rights. The Institute has indicated its willingness to join the proceedings, as the promotion of human rights, including the right to life from conception, is included in its statutory objectives.”
Justyna Wydrzyńska’s counsels opposed the participation of Ordo Iuris, claiming among other things that there is no wronged party in this case, because in their opinion a “fetus”, which according to them “is not a subject of human rights”, cannot be recognized as such. The attorneys also argued that the wronged parties cannot be persons close to the conceived child. Therefore, in their opinion, it is impossible to speak about the individual interest of the victim or victims and the public interest.
Jakub Słoniowski, legal adviser, who was present at the hearing as a representative of the Institute, argued against this position. He pointed out, inter alia, that the defence counsels presented an extreme and defective interpretation of Article 152 §2 of the Penal Code and wrongly assumed that human rights do not apply to an unborn child. He also pointed out that individual and social interests should also be seen in the context of the objectives of criminal proceedings, which include individual prevention and general prevention.”
What happened in the room?
The defendant pleaded not guilty. She only offered an explanation of how she learned from the aid organization about a woman who wanted to terminate her pregnancy.
– I was informed that the person was begging for help because if she didn’t get it, she would “do something to herself.” That’s literally what I heard. I was also informed that this person is in a very violent relationship – Wydrzynska said.
The defendant also said that the story of the woman asking for support shocked her greatly.
– It is very similar to my private life. I have experienced violence not only psychological but also physical – she explained.
Wydrzynska also added that she did not want the woman to use abortion methods that could be dangerous to her. She said she had never been in contact with her before, and that she had not received any benefit for what she had done.
– I don’t regret what I did. I would love it if individuals could support each other, could share tablets, could be with each other. I hope that this case will be a breakthrough and that the fact that we share abortion pills is a reflex of empathy and understanding for the needs of another human being – commented the defendant after leaving the courtroom.
The court set the next date in the case for July 14, 2022.
Abortion as a crime
Under current law, termination of pregnancy is a crime. It is stylized in Art. 152 Penal Code. The provision reads as follows:
§ 1. Whoever, with a woman’s consent, terminates her pregnancy in violation of the Act,
shall be punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years.
§ 2. Whoever assists or induces a pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy in violation of this Act shall be subject to the same penalty.
§ 3. Whoever commits the act specified in § 1 or 2, when the conceived child has attained the capacity for independent life outside the organism of the pregnant woman, shall be subject to the penalty of deprivation of liberty for a term of between 6 months and 8 years.
As a reminder, abortion in Poland is allowed only in the case when pregnancy is a threat to the life or health of the pregnant woman and when there is a justified suspicion that the pregnancy is the result of a prohibited act.
The trial of Justyna Wydrzyńska is yet another stage in the fight by pro-abortion groups to liberalize the law on abortion. It flared up after the Constitutional Court issued its ruling in October 2020. The outcome of the trial will be seen in a few months. Certainly the judgment rendered in the case will be appealed.