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One of 140 marches for life in Poland in 2016
Natalia Dueholm Natalia Dueholm

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Polish pro-lifers’ new strategy to curb future abortions: Requiring autopsies on aborted babies

Natalia Dueholm Natalia Dueholm

WARSAW, Poland, December 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The current government rejected an abortion ban but still wants to be viewed as pro-life and Polish pro-lifers are suggesting compulsory autopsies for aborted babies as a possible temporary solution to significantly limit abortions.

In October, the Conservative ruling Law and Justice party disappointed pro-lifers by rejecting the total abortion ban proposed by half a million Polish citizens. After the initial shock, some still hoped that at least eugenic abortions would be banned. However, quite quickly it became clear that there was no chance to amend the current law in any form.

Even though abortions are technically illegal, they are allowed in certain circumstances. The first is when a doctor suspects that the baby has a severe and irreversible handicap or an incurable and life-threatening disease. In such situations, the procedure is allowed until the baby is viable, which means late-term abortions for a 6-month-old unborn baby. Second, when the woman’s life or health is endangered, there are no legal limits as to the time when an abortion can be performed. Finally, when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, abortion is permitted until the 12th week.

According to the Ministry of Health, most abortions are performed in public hospitals for eugenic reasons. In 2015, 996 of 1,040 unborn babies were aborted because doctors suspected a health problem. The law allows for so-called pregnancy terminations in case of “a severe and irreversible handicap or an incurable and life-threatening disease.” But this is theory. In practice, nobody confirms if the prenatal diagnosis was correct.

Polish pro-lifers want this checked for several reasons. Dariusz Hybel, the editor of the pro-life magazine Głos dla Życia (“Voice for Life”), said that in many cases the babies diagnosed in the uterus as very sick turned out to be completely healthy after they were born. “Only God knows how many healthy babies lost their lives because of mistaken prenatal testing,” he added.

Hybel thinks that this discrepancy between the prenatal diagnosis and the real state of health of an aborted child is reason enough to introduce compulsory autopsies. “The respect for truth demands this,” he argued.

Pro-lifers suggest the Minister of Health could establish a requirement for such autopsies. He could do this by issuing an executive order requiring hospitals to perform them. Pro-lifers maintain that, from the legal perspective, this could be done quite quickly. The Parliament would not have to act because there would be no need to change the law.

The success of the idea could depend on Minister of Health Konstanty Radziwiłł. A medical doctor and the father of eight children, Radziwill was known for his pro-life stance before he took office. However, as minister he did not try to ban in vitro fertilization, although he decided to cut public funding for it. He also refused to ban EllaOne, the so-called emergency postcoital contraception that can act as abortifacient. Instead, Radziwiłł reintroduced the prescription requirement for this product.

Hybel is not sure the current administration would support requiring autopsies. On the one hand, the leaders of the ruling party backed a ban on eugenic abortions. On the other hand, Prime Minister Beata Szydło mentioned that Polish people are not ready for it and need to be educated. Hybel suggests that autopsies could help raise the awareness about the humanity of the unborn child.

Magdalena Korzekwa-Kaliszuk, who petitioned the Minister of Health on CitizenGO Poland, argues it could also limit eugenic abortions and save many lives. In the Open Letter, she wrote that the verification of diagnoses through autopsies would halt the doctors-eugenicists. In other words, they would “only” abort those babies who are very sick or extremely deformed. The letter suggests that abortionists would not dare to kill babies with minor disabilities because the autopsy would show it. What’s more, Korzekwa-Kaliszuk argues that the autopsies could limit medical pressure on parents to abort. She also hopes that more parents would decide not to end their baby’s life.

The Open Letter does not include specific details about the proposed solution. It does not suggest who should perform the postmortem — possibly a pathologist at a different hospital or the same facility where the abortion took place.

It also does not mention any kind of punishment for abortionists who recommended the eugenic abortion of a healthy baby.

At any rate, pro-lifers emphasized that the new idea would only be a temporary solution and that a total abortion ban is needed to protect all of the unborn. They added, “There is no justification for killing any unborn, but if the autopsy requirement saves some from death, either healthy or sick babies, it is worth doing.”

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