Polish activist convicted for helping obtain abortion pills

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Warsaw court on Tuesday convicted a women's rights activist for helping a victim of domestic violence access abortion pills in Poland, and sentenced her to eight months of community service.

The case of Justyna Wydrzyńska has been closely watched by human rights activists, who believe it will set a precedent in a country with some of Europe's most restrictive abortion legislation.

A leading reproductive rights organization, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said it was “appalled" that Wydrzyńska will now have a criminal record for helping a woman who was in an abusive relationship.

“We are deeply saddened by the decision and outraged by the entire process. Condemning a person for an act of empathy and compassion towards another human being is inconceivable," said spokesperson Irene Donadio.

Prosecutors had charged Wydrzyńska with “helping with an abortion," a crime punishable up by to three years in prison.

Wydrzyńska will appeal the case, according to Polish media reports. She's the co-founder of the Abortion Dream Team, an organization that provides women seeking abortions with information.

Poland, a predominantly Catholic country, forbids abortion in almost all cases, with exceptions only when a woman’s life or health is endangered or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

For years, abortion was allowed in the case of fetuses with congenital defects. However, that exception was struck down by the country's constitutional court in 2020.

In practice, Polish women seeking to terminate their pregnancies order abortions pills or travel to Germany, the Czech Republic and other countries where the procedure is allowed. While self-administering abortion pills is legal, helping someone else is not.

Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press