Poland Digitizes Pregnancy Data, May Limit Divorces to Increase Birthrate

A new legislative proposal for Poland wants to create a new institute to limit the number of divorces so the country's birthrate will increase, and activists now fear the government will track every pregnancy in a national database, the Associated Press reported.

Women's rights activists are worried the Polish government is creating a new database that will track whether pregnancies end in a birth of a child or not. They believe the database could be used as a potential tool for prosecutions.

The health minister denied the accusation of a pregnancy database, saying the government is only shifting files from paper to digital form.

However, a proposal will be announced in parliament this week to create a "Family and Demographic Institute" that would, in theory, increase Poland's birthrate by restricting divorces. The bill would give the head of the institute access to pregnancy data and have the power to not approve divorces.

Last year, Poland already restricted their abortion law to only allow the procedure for rape or incest or if the woman's life or health is in danger.

"This is a full blown war on women in Poland," said Women's Strike leader Marta Lempart. Women's Strike is a women's rights movement leading the protests, which took place in front of government buildings in recent days, the AP reported.

As of now, if a Polish woman needs an abortion, they travel outside of Poland to other European countries. Most commonly, women travel to the Netherlands and Slovakia where they have groups set up who can help them.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Poland, Protest, Restrictive Abortion
Women's rights activists hold a sign reading "You have blood on your hands" near dummies in the street to signify women who are suffering because of Poland's current, restrictive abortion law and a proposal for further restrictions, during a demonstration in front of parliament, in Warsaw, Poland, November 30, 2021. Women’s rights activists used red paint symbolizing blood to protest a government plan to register every pregnancy in a national database and a proposal to further restrict abortion. Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo

Parliament is scheduled Wednesday to debate a proposal for a complete ban on abortion in Poland, including in cases of rape and danger to a woman's health. The "stop abortion" bill would define a fetus as a child under the law, and were it to become law, the activists who help women travel to abortion facilities and the women themselves could face years of imprisonment for murder. The penalty could be from five years to a life sentence.

Irene Donadio of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network said the bill would also leave women who have miscarriages subject to possible criminal charges and prison terms of up to five years. She called it a "nightmare scenario for women in Poland."

She said in countries that treat abortion as murder, such as El Salvador, women who are hospitalized with miscarriages sometimes fall under suspicion of having had an abortion, such as with an abortion pill, and can be charged by prosecutors.

"If Poland takes such a cruel decision it would simply devastate women and families' lives," Donadio said.

Amnesty International on Tuesday urged Polish lawmakers to reject what it called a "sinister bill" and "the latest in a wave of cruel and discriminatory attacks on women's human rights."

The proposal is not the work of lawmakers but was brought by an anti-abortion foundation. In Poland, citizen groups can bring legislative proposals to parliament if they collect at least 100,000 signatures.

Women's rights activists in Poland used red paint to symbolize blood as they protested Tuesday against a government plan to register every pregnancy in a national database and as parliament prepares to debate a new proposal to further restrict abortion.

It is not yet clear if either of the legislative proposals have a chance of being passed.

Poland, Abortion, Protest, Near-Total Ban
Poland abortion rights are already minimal, and a new proposal would restrict abortions altogether. Another bill proposes an institution to prevent divorces to promote birthrate. Above, protesters hold up lights, a Polish flag, posters reading "not even one more" and also photographs of Iza as they take part in a demonstration on November 6, 2021, in Warsaw, Poland, to mark the first anniversary of a Constitutional Court ruling that imposed a near-total ban on abortion, and also to commemorate the death of pregnant Polish woman Iza. Wojtek Radwanski / AFP/Getty Images