Polish activist Justyna Wydrzynska was on Tuesday found guilty of supplying a pregnant woman with abortion pills in the Catholic country, her NGO said, in Poland’s first such case.
Poland has one of Europe’s most restrictive termination laws and all abortion is banned except in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother’s life or health is considered at risk.
“Guilty: of providing assistance,” the Abortion Dream Team organisation co-founded by Wydrzynska said on Twitter following the verdict.
It added that she was sentenced to “eight months of community service at 30 hours a month.”
Wydrzynska had faced up to three years in prison on charges of “helping with an abortion” and “unauthorised possession of medicine”.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, Wydrzynska said she would file an appeal.
“I do not feel guilty… I don’t accept the verdict,” she added.
She said she would “continue to answer the phone for Abortion Dream Team” to help women in need.
The organisation said it had helped with 44,000 abortions last year.
Defence lawyer for Wydrzynska, Jerzy Podgorski, said the verdict might have been less strict had she not been an activist.
“If that was a private person, anonymous, and not publicly known, the sentence could have been different,” Podgorski said, adding that he had argued before the court that the social harm of Wydrzynska’s actions was negligible.
Natalia Broniarczyk of Abortion Dream Team also said that politics played its part in Wydrzynska’s case.
“We think the prosecutor did not ask for the maximum sentence, because it is an election year,” Broniarczyk said after the verdict, adding that surveys show the majority of Polish citizens express support for liberalising the abortion laws.
According to the latest opinion poll conducted by Ibris in early March, 83.7 percent of respondents were in favour of easing the restrictions.
– ‘Dangerous precedent’ –
Amnesty International had said ahead of the trial that the case was a first in Europe.
“The case marks the first in Europe in which an activist is being prosecuted for aiding an abortion by providing abortion pills,” it said last year.
Amnesty International’s chief Agnes Callamard on Tuesday said the case set “a dangerous precedent in Poland, where abortion is nearly completely banned.”
“Today’s conviction marks a depressing low in the repression of reproductive rights in Poland: a roll back for which women and girls — and those who defend their rights — are paying a high price,” she added.
Wydrzynska was found guilty of having provided the pills to a woman in her twelfth week of pregnancy in 2020.
The woman had reached out for assistance, saying she was a victim of domestic violence and that her husband had stopped her from going to a German abortion clinic, Wydrzynska told AFP last year.
Later, while waiting at home for the abortion pills, the pregnant woman said her husband called the police, who confiscated the package and launched an investigation.
The woman later miscarried.
Wydrzynska told local media that she had been guided by empathy towards the pregnant woman, whom she did not know, having herself been in a similar situation several years ago.
Poland has long had a restrictive abortion law which was further tightened after the Constitutional Court in 2020 sided with the right-wing government to rule that terminations due to foetal defects were unconstitutional.