Polish doctors restrict abortions
By Iwona Knothe
WARSAW — A controversial doctors' code of ethics prohibiting most abortions went into effect on May 2, despite warnings that it could increase the death rate among women and that it violates current law.
The code, adopted by the Polish physicians national congress last December, permits abortion only when the life or health of the mother is in danger or when pregnancy is the result of a criminal act such as rape or under-age intercourse.
The code is meant to supplant a 1956 law still on the books which virtually allowed abortion on demand.
Abortion is the chief means of birth control in overwhelmingly Catholic Poland. Although the true figures are not known, the Health Ministry estimates that about 100,000 abortions are performed each year. The Catholic Church here, which opposes all abortions, puts the figure at about 1 million.
"Contraceptives are scarce and very expensive, and information about birth control is not available", said Wanda Nowicka, an activist from the independent Association for a Non-ideological State.
Under the new amendments to the code, a doctor can be stripped of the licence to practise if found to have violated the provision. Since membership in the physicians' group is mandatory, the code automatically applies to all doctors.
[From Inter Press Service/Pegasus.]