An estimated 150,000 clandestine abortions take place annually in Poland, generating around $95 million of undeclared and tax-free revenue.
This is according to a study in the May issue of UK-based journal Reproductive Health Matters.
“Once abortion left the public sphere, it entered the gray zone of private arrangements, in which a woman's private worries became someone else's private gain,” said Agata Che³stowska, author of the research and a PhD student in cultural anthropology at the University of Warsaw.
Legal in communist Poland, abortion was outlawed in 1993, except in three situations: when the life or health of the mother is at risk, if the fetus is damaged, or if the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act. Women’s organizations say that the law has seriously limited access to surgical abortions even in the conditions in which it is currently allowed.
According to government data, between 1994 and 2006, an average of 300 abortions per year were performed. Findings from Ms Che³stowska’s research indicate that, today, 99 percent of abortions take place outside of hospitals.
This situation affects women differently, depending on their incomes and social status, says Mr Che³stowska. In 2009, the cost of a surgical abortion in Poland was estimated to be greater than the average monthly income. As a result, wealthier women are more likely to have access to private abortions, either in Poland or abroad – in the UK or Germany. Poorer women also have less political influence, Ms Che³stowska argues.
The medical profession, which profits financially from the current situation, has no incentive to change things, said Wanda Nowicka, executive director of the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning. “We are talking about a vast, untaxed source of income. That is why the medical profession is not interested in changing the abortion law,” she said.
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