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Krzysztof Sowinski has cried every day since his wife Marta, who was five months pregnant, died of sepsis in 2022; he believes doctors put Marta’s life in danger by not giving them the option to terminate the pregnancy while the fetus’ heart was still beating. Janusz Kucharski lost his partner Justyna in the fifth week of pregnancy to sepsis. She left two boys behind.
It is likely, reproductive-rights advocates say, that these women would be alive if not for Poland’s increasingly restrictive abortion laws. Abortion has been illegal in the country since 1993, but a 2020 ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, which went into effect the next year, removed one of the exceptions to the law—fetal abnormalities—and imposed a near-total ban on abortion. Now women can terminate a pregnancy only if the women’s life or health is at risk (including mental health risks with a psychiatric diagnosis) or if there is reasonable suspicion that the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
Yet, as many examples across the country have shown, what the law allows in practice isn’t what actually happens. The consequences of…