"We are living in a state of women's hell" is how the Parliamentary Women's Club described their situation in Poland since the new Physician's Code of Ethics entered into force on May 3, 1992. The new Code prohibits doctors in Poland from performing abortions, even though abortion is legal in Poland. For performing an abortion in violation of the Code of Ethics, a doctor could have his or her license to practice medicine revoked by the Polish Medical Society. Hospitals are now turning women away, forcing them to look elsewhere for abortions, and the cost of abortion by private physicians has reportedly skyrocketed. Many physicians are simply unwilling to risk their livelihood. It is only a matter of time before backroom abortions will begin claiming lives.
Ewa Letowska, the then state commissioner for civil rights in Poland, submitted the Physicians Code of Ethics to the Constitutional Tribunal on January 7, 1992, questioning the validity of the Code on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the law. Tadeusz Zielinski, the current state commissioner for civil rights, has upheld the position taken by his predecessor that the Code is invalid. The Constitutional Tribunal has not yet issued a decision, thereby allowing the current crisis to unfold.
Thousands of Polish doctors have reportedly signed petitions and written letters of protest to the Polish Medical Society over the restrictions on abortion in the Code of Ethics. The Code was approved by a National Conference of Physicians consisting of a few hundred representatives, and the membership of the Polish Medical Society was given no opportunity to review it. To repeal the Code, another National Conference of Physicians would have to be convened, which would require a motion from one-third of the 22 district chambers of the Polish Medical Society. The Warsaw chamber has put forward such a motion.
Please alert the media to this crisis situation in Poland and continue to urge the Polish Medical Society to repeal the new Code of Ethics. Also, please contact the Constitutional Tribunal and request that they take immediate action to strike down the Physician's Code of Ethics on the grounds that it is inconsistent with Polish law. Letters, telex, telegrams and telephone calls should be directed to:
Dr. Tadeusz Chrusciel, President
Polish Medical Society
Naczelna Izba Lekarska
ul. Grojecka 65a
02-094 Warsaw, Poland
Tel: 48-22-22-15-73, 48-22-22-21-54
Mieczyslaw Tyczka, President
ul. Wiejska 4/6