epa10709416 Leader of main opposition party Civic Platform (PO) Donald Tusk speaks at an anti-government demonstration EPA-EFE/Tomasz Golla POLAND OUT


Tusk calls for march against Polish abortion laws ahead of national elections


A political storm has erupted in Poland over a woman being interrogated by the police after she took an abortion pill.

The leader of the Liberal opposition Donald Tusk cited the incident to slam the ruling Conservative PiS party and called for a national protest march on October 1, just two weeks before the expected date of Poland’s general elections.

Referred to only as “Joanna”, the woman reportedly felt unwell and became suicidal after taking the tablet and had to be treated by paramedics, assisted by the police.

While in hospital she was apparently questioned by the police who seized her laptop and phone and strip-searched her. The alleged incident took place in late April but the woman has only now come forward.

According to Tusk, the woman was “humiliated” by the police action. He linked her treatment to the hospital deaths of three pregnant women since the country’s abortion laws were tightened in 2021. Critics claim that has led to doctors being reluctant to perform abortions for fear of state action against them.

In Tusk’s opinion, Joanna and the women who died had been seeking care and support but had instead encountered a “heartless state machine” as well as an “ambush by the police and prosecutor’s office”.

In Joanna’s case, the police claim their officers reacted on the suspicion of a crime having been committed in assisting a pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy by illegal means. Law enforcement officials argued that “the intervention of officers took place after the services were notified by a psychiatrist about a possible suicide attempt by their patient and the intake of substances of unknown origin”.

The police have also said that strip-searches of people deemed to be at risk of suicide was “standard procedure”.

Polish legislation on abortion, following a ruling by the constitutional court in late 2021, allows termination only in cases of a pregnancy having been caused by criminal activity or it being a threat to the woman’s life.

There are no provisions for penalising women for inducing abortions, although it is a crime for anyone to assist in an illegal abortion.

Tusk has used the case to express his indignation at the treatment of women in Poland following the tightening of abortion laws. He called on all who oppose the current government to march in Warsaw on October 1, calling the demonstration the “march of a million hearts”.

The protest is set to take place just ahead of the country’s general election, which is likely to be in mid-October. Tusk hopes the march will repeat the success of the June 4 anti-government demonstration that, according to the organisers, drew 500,000 protesters on to the streets of Warsaw, although the police estimate the actual number was closer to 150,000.

Tusk wants to make abortion a key electoral lever in the upcoming national election. His Liberal PO party has called for “abortion on demand” up until the 12th week of pregnancy. The Left is the only other party that supports this stance.

Since liberalisation of abortion legislation is opposed by the ruling Conservatives, the radical Right Confederation party as well as a centrist alliance Third Way, Tusk is unlikely to have the power after the election to deliver on his election pledge.

Even if he did, current President Andrzej Duda has made it known that he would veto any such legislation.