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Poland must not further restrict sexual and reproductive health and rights, say UN experts

GENEVA (22 March 2018) – A group of United Nations human rights experts has called on the Polish parliament to reject a new draft bill entitled “Stop Abortion” which will be debated this week and which risks causing serious damage to women’s health and lives, and violating Poland’s international human rights obligations.

The United Nations Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice has called on the Polish Parliament to reject a draft bill up for consideration this week that would ban abortion in situations where there is a severe fetal anomaly, one of only three legal grounds for termination of pregnancy available in a country that already has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws.

UN human rights experts have already sent several communications to the Polish Government regarding past attempts to further restrict access to abortion, and the Government replied to one such communication in 2016, but has not addressed to the most recent communication sent by the experts.

The experts highlighted that these efforts risk damaging women’s equality, dignity, autonomy, and bodily integrity, restricting their access to information and their rights to a private life and to health, and exposing them to forms of cruel and inhuman treatment. They underlined that forced continuation of pregnancy in any circumstance violates a person’s human rights.

The experts urged the Parliament to respect the right of women to make autonomous decisions about their own bodies and reproductive functions, which are at the very core of their fundamental right to equality and privacy concerning intimate matters of physical and psychological integrity.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:
Many international and regional human rights instruments, including the CEDAW Convention, have affirmed that ensuring women’s human rights requires access to safe abortion and post-abortion services and care. The 2016 CESCR General Comment No. 22 also calls for guaranteeing women and girls access to safe abortion services and quality post-abortion care to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity. The most recent prior communication to the Polish government on this topic can be accessed here: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WG/Communications/OL-POL-1-2018.pdf

The UN experts: Alda Facio, Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, Meskerem Geset Techane,Melissa Upreti, Chair-Rapporteur and members of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice. Endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Dubravka Šimonović.

For further information, please refer to the following documents:
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 

Report on health and safety by the UN Working Group on discrimination against women  

Report on the right to health of adolescents by the UN Special Rapporteur on health 

Report on gender perspectives by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture
 
The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
 
For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Monica Iyer (+ 44 22 917 9668 / spbconsultant7@ohchr.org) or write to wgdiscriminationwomen@ohchr.org
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org

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