Statistics from the UK’s Department of Health disprove claims made by a Polish abortion lobby group that 10,000 Polish women are coming to Britain to abort their children annually. A researcher for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) says the claims are nothing more than propaganda in a campaign to loosen abortion restrictions in Poland.
In March, the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning came under heavy criticism in Britain when it ran an ad campaign in Poland encouraging women to seek abortions in the UK. The ads were intended to promote the idea that women are being unfairly treated by Poland’s laws restricting abortion to cases in which the mother’s “life or health” is threatened by pregnancy. The group claims that “thousands” of women travel to Britain to abort their children each year because such “health services” are not easily available in Poland.
While no official estimate for the number of abortions committed on Polish women for the whole of the UK exists, Department of Health statistics show that only 20 Polish residents had abortions at public expense in England and Wales in 2009. This accounts for 0.3 per cent of all abortions on non-resident women.
This number does not include abortions performed in Scotland, which are recorded separately by the Health Department of the Scottish government and which account for about 7 percent of the UK total.
As part of Britain’s membership in the European Union, anyone with a European Health Insurance Card can get health care services on the National Health Service (NHS); the NHS carries out the great majority of abortions in Britain, leaving only about six per cent of abortions conducted in private clinics. Even in such private facilities, however, the cost of abortion is often carried by the public system.
Daniel Blackman, who researches international affairs for SPUC, said, there is “no solid evidence” for the 10,000 claim and that it “appears that the figure is self-serving speculation.”
Blackman noted, however, that the official statistics only record abortions of Polish residents, so there may be Polish women residing in the UK having abortions or who have come to Britain and given the address of friends or relatives.
But he noted also that abortions on non-residents are in decline overall, with 6,643 in 2009 compared to 6,862 in 2008 and 9,000 to 10,000 between 1995 and 2003. The 2009 total is the lowest in any year since 1969. The greatest number of abortions for non-resident women are those conducted on residents of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Blackman wrote, “It would seem unlikely in this context that a growing number of women from Poland are coming to Britain for abortions, especially not on the scale of thousands.”
The Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, an organization granted Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 1999, is a major player in the international movement to de-Christianize Poland, promote homosexuality and lift all restrictions on abortion. The group’s latest report to the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights complained of lack of opposition by the government to the traditional cultural values of the still strongly Catholic Poland.
Poland, the report said, “continues to fail to protect rights related to sexuality, reproduction, women’s personal safety and gender equality which remain seriously violated in Poland.”
The report went on to call the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection, Janusz Kochanowski, “a very controversial public officer,” for having recently “publicly stated that he does not like feminists because they do not like other women.” The report also complained that between 2005-07, “the Polish government run [sic] and developed homophobic policy” citing especially an attempt by the Ministry of National Education to pass a law protecting children from the promotion of homosexuality in schools.
Poland’s restrictions on abortion have already been significantly loosened in recent years. Under current law, abortions are legal in cases of pregnancy due to rape, and where the woman’s “life or health” is in danger. Eugenic abortion is also legal when a physician certifies that the child will be born disabled. Minors seeking abortion must obtain parental consent.