Tens of thousands of demonstrators shocked by the death of a pregnant woman – blamed by human rights organisations on legislation that all but bans abortion – took to the streets on Saturday throughout Poland, Belga News agency reports.
Izabela, a 30-year-old woman, was 22 weeks pregnant when she died in late September in a hospital in Pszczyna, a city in the southern region of Silesia.
“The doctors waited for the foetus to die. The foetus died. The patient died. Septic shock,” the family’s attorney, Jolanta Budzowska, wrote in a tweet.
Izabela was the first woman to have lost her life as a result of a ruling that was handed down by the Constitutional Court in October 2020 and took effect in late January 2021.
The Court, supported by the rightwing nationalist government of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, banned voluntary interruptions of pregnancy in the event of the severe malformation of a foetus. This resulted in the banning of all interruptions of pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.
“Not one more!” shouted thousands of demonstrators who gathered outside the Court’s headquarters in Warsaw then marched to the Health Ministry.
“I’m here so that no other woman’s life may be in danger; the current legislation is killing women,” Ewa Pietrzyk, a Warsaw resident in her forties, told French news agency AFP, brandishing a photo of Izabela.
Similar demonstrations were held in about 70 other cities and towns across Poland.
According to a statement from the family, doctors at the Pszczyna Hospital “adopted a wait-and-see attitude,” which Izabela attributed at the time to the desire by the doctors to avoid having to conduct an abortion.
Anyone who helps to carry out an abortion, including doctors, faces a three-year prison term.
“The child weighs 485 grammes. For now, due to the abortion law, I need to remain in bed, and there’s nothing they can do,” Izabela had written to her mother in one of her text messages, which were made public.
“My fever is rising. I hope I won’t have septicemia, otherwise I won’t make it,” she added. “It’s horrible. My life is in danger, and I have to wait.”
Izabela, who had been married for 10 years, leaves behind a nine-year-old daughter.
The ruling nationalists contend that her death was not due to the Constitutional Court’s decision. However, two doctors from the Pszczyna Hospital were suspended from their posts after her death and the local office of the public prosecutor has launched an investigation.
Women’s rights groups reported that thousands of Polish women go to them to ask for help in obtaining an abortion, mainly aboard.