Poland to pay woman denied abortion €16,000 compensation

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The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ordered Poland to pay a woman 16,000 euros (more than $17,000) for denying her the right to abort a foetus with abnormalities.

Poland has one of Europe’s toughest abortion laws.

Abortion in the majority-Catholic country is now legal only if the pregnancy results from sexual assault or incest, or threatens the life or health of the mother.

The verdict of the court, based in Strasbourg, follows the complaint of a young woman who was denied access to a legal abortion after the foetus had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.

The applicant was only identified as M.L., a resident of Warsaw born in 1985.

In 2020, the Polish Constitutional Court ruled that abortion due to foetal anomaly was incompatible with the constitution.

The decision took effect on January 27, 2021.

The woman was scheduled to have an abortion the next day in a hospital in Warsaw. The establishment cancelled the procedure, forcing her to travel to the Netherlands.

“The court found that the legislative amendments in question, which had forced her to travel abroad for an abortion at considerable expense and away from her family support network, had to have had a significant psychological impact on her,” it said in a statement.

On top of that, the composition of the Constitutional Court that had issued the ruling “had included judges who had been appointed in a procedure tainted by serious irregularities,” it said.

By a majority of five votes to two, the court condemned Poland for violating the “right to respect for private life”, guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.

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The Hungarian and Polish judges issued a dissenting opinion.

The court ordered Poland to pay the woman 15,000 euros in compensation and 1,004 euros in costs.

The ECHR is charged with ruling on violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, ratified by 46 countries.

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