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Why is Poland creating a “pregnancy register”?

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Warsaw, Poland – Concerns are growing in Poland after the conservative government revealed plans to create a so-called “pregnancy register”.

“Terrifying” move

“A pregnancy register in a country with an almost complete ban on abortion is terrifying,” reacted opposition MP Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk, echoing mounting fears that authorities are attempting to put pregnant Polish women under surveillance and further crack down on abortions.

On Monday, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski signed a decree to expand what type of information should be recorded in the country’s central health database, including pregnancies, allergies, and blood types.

Poland’s Health Ministry has dismissed activists’ fears as unfounded and misguided, arguing that the registry is merely meant to improve the medical treatment of patients and will only be accessed by doctors and other medical professionals.

Plans to report pregnant women seen drinking or smoking were withdrawn from the reform after protests, Euronews reported.

But activists are not convinced and see it as the latest move of the PiS-led government to severely restrict Polish women’s ability to get an abortion.

Human rights advocate Annika Ojala has described it as “another violent attack on sexual and reproductive rights in Poland” which “could be used to detect abortions”.

Putting pregnant Polish women under surveillance?

Already facing a near-total ban on abortions, Polish women fear authorities will now be able to put their pregnancy “under surveillance”, and know whose pregnancy ended before term – whether due to miscarriage, the intake of abortion pills or a termination abroad.

One of the country’s leading women rights activists Marta Lempart expressed concerns that the information contained in the registry could eventually be shared with police and prosecutors.

The head of local NGO Women’s Strike, Lempart said that the plans would hit poorer women the hardest, while richer women may more easily decide to seek private treatment outside of the state health system or choose to terminate their pregnancy in another country.

Poland has long had one of the strictest abortions laws in Europe. In 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that abortion in cases of fetus malformations were unconstitutional, effectively outlawing the vast majority of legal abortions.

Today, women can terminate their pregnancy only in cases of rape or incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger.