Thursday, June 19, 2008

Abortion tug-of-war over schoolgirl raped in Poland

From The Irish Times
by DEREK SCALLY in Berlin

Wed, Jun 18, 2008

A 14-YEAR-OLD pregnant girl, who says she was raped by a friend, is caught in the middle of a struggle between Poland's anti-abortion and pro-choice camps.

The schoolgirl, known only by the pseudonym Agata, is 11 weeks pregnant. Her mother says that several attempts to terminate the pregnancy - permitted under Poland's abortion laws because Agata is under-age - have failed because of interference by anti-abortion campaigners.

They say the girl is being pressured into terminating the pregnancy by her mother and pro-choice campaigners.

Agata says she was raped in April by a fellow student and the assault left her "covered in bruises" and pregnant. She went to a gynaecologist, who informed the police and Agata's mother. After discussing the matter, mother and daughter applied for permission to have an abortion. But when they went to the local hospital in Lublin, southeast of Warsaw, Agata was shown, alone, into a room where a priest was waiting.

The priest, Fr Krzysztof Podstawka, heads a local diocese organisation for single mothers called "Protection of Life".

Agata said that the gynaecologist returned later and said she would not perform the abortion.

The girl said that the doctor and priest dictated a letter to her in which she agreed to keep the baby. "I just said yes to everyone to have some peace," she told Gazeta Wyborczanewspaper. When her mother heard what happened, she contacted the Women's Federation in Warsaw and, with their help, found a clinic willing to perform the abortion.

Waiting for them was Fr Podstawka and anti-abortion campaigners. Inside, doctors refused to perform the abortion, claiming they had been threatened.

Meanwhile, authorities in Lublin received complaints about the mother's role in the case and, on their return, put Agata into emergency child care.

"I want to be a mother when I grow up, not now," she told Gazeta Wyborcza. "Now all I want is my own mother." Already in her 11th week, Polish law only allows legal terminations until the 12th week.