Warsaw, Poland – The Belgian government announced it would become the first country in the world to fund abortions for Polish women after a near-total ban came into effect at the start of this year.
Detailing the initiative, Belgium’s State Secretary for Gender Equality Sarah Schlitz said the government would donate €10,000 to Abortion Without Borders (Aborcja Bez Granic), an organisation which supports and advises Polish women on how to obtain an abortion abroad if needed.
“Access to abortion is a fundamental right that must be ensured by every democratic state,” Ms. Schlitz said. “It allows women to own their own bodies, protect their health, and not be forced to give up life opportunities.”
The funds are intended to cover Polish women’s trip to Belgium or any other European country and pay for the procedure.
“This support is a true act of solidarity”, reacted Mara Clarke from Abortion Without Borders. “We are thrilled to see our friends in Belgium extend their hands across borders to help people forced by punitive governments to travel for abortion care.”
“The number of people needing our support has doubled” since the ruling came into force in January, she said, adding that she hoped other countries will “follow Belgium’s lead”.
Last year’s constitutional ruling made abortions due to foetal defects and abnormalities illegal – cases that represented approximately 98% of the 1,000 to 2,000 abortions legally performed in Poland until that date.
Following the court’s decision, Polish women can now only terminate their pregnancy in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
Reports suggest Abortion Without Borders had been contacted by over 17,000 people seeking safe abortion within the first six months following the Polish constitutional ruling.
The near-total ban, which triggered mass protests across Poland at the end of last year, has forced additional numbers of Polish women seeking abortion to travel abroad, including to neighbouring Germany or the Czech Republic, with all the additional difficulties linked to the Covid pandemic and travel restrictions.
In May, Polish officials had urged the Czech government to prevent so-called “abortion tourism” and block legislation that would make it easier for Polish women to terminate their pregnancy in the Czech Republic.