Tens of thousands of women marched in the Polish capital Warsaw on Saturday, November 6, protesting the tragic death of a 30-year-old woman, Izabela, from pregnancy-related complications in Pszczyna. Protests were called by feminist groups, including the National Women’s Strike (Strajk Kobiet), and marches were held in all major cities in the country. The protesters blamed the strict anti-abortion directive imposed by the Polish Constitutional Court at the behest of the incumbent conservative government led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party for Izabela’s death. Members from opposition political parties, including Lewica Razem, (Left Together) also participated in the protests.
Izabela died of septic shock at the Pszczyna hospital on September 22 after being admitted in her fifth month of pregnancy with pathological anhydramnios. According to reports, although doctors knew her life was in danger, they waited for the termination of pregnancy until the fetal heart stopped beating, fearing legal consequences resulting from the stricter anti-abortion law in force from 2020. Following her death, a campaign demanding justice for Izabela and to protest the anti-abortion laws began on social media with the hashtag #AniJednejWięcej (#NotOneMore). The campaign went viral by the first week of November and culminated in the mass protest rally in Warsaw on Saturday. The rally started from the Constitutional Court and ended in front of the Ministry of Health.
The Polish Constitutional Court’s notorious ruling in October 2020 to outlaw abortions in case of fetal defects had triggered widespread protests from feminist and progressive sections in Poland and across the world. Such a controversial verdict by the Constitutional Court, which is dominated by loyalists of the PIS, was welcomed by the government, the Catholic Church and conservative figures like Kaja Godek, who leads the Life and Family Foundation.
Prior to the protest march on Saturday, the National Women’s Strike stated, “Izabela met with a tragic death inflicted on her by the system. Izabela was 22 weeks pregnant. It was known that the fetus will not survive and that if the pregnancy is not aborted, Izabela could also die. Still, doctors in the Pszczyna hospital did not dare to save her with abortion fearing the Constitutional Court’s regulations as an irrefutable sentence.”
“Izabela was a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend. She was one of us. Almost a day before she died, she texted her mom that she was afraid for her life,” the group said.
MP Magdalena Biejat from Razem said that the left-wing parliamentarians, along with the Federation for Women and Family Planning, will create a Rescue Network and use their discretion in situations where patients’ rights are violated and when women’s lives and health are threatened.