Poland’s justice ministry has awarded an honour to a pro-life activist, Zuzanna Wiewiórka, who prevented a teenager from having an abortion by informing the girl’s parents about her plans. Some have criticised the award, saying that Wiewiórka violated the girl’s privacy and harassed her online.
On Friday, during a press conference broadcast with the title “Stop hate against defenders of life”, the ministry presented Wiewiórka with a medal for “merit in the field of justice”, reports Tok FM.
Deputy justice minister Marcin Romanowski hailed her for her “loud cry of protest when it was easiest to remain silent, for fighting for human life and compliance with the law, for courage, determination and not showing indifference”.
Romanowski added that the ministry always supports the defence of human life and highly values the actions of all NGOs that are actively involved in pro-life campaigning. Poland’s abortion law, which is the strictest in the EU apart from Malta’s, does not allow for elective abortion. The conservative government has expressed support for tightening it further.
Wiewiórka is a 25-year-old volunteer at Fundacja Pro-Prawo do Życia, an NGO known for organising demonstrations with posters of aborted foetuses as well as seeking to criminalise sex education and driving loudspeaker vans through Polish cities broadcasting messages linking LGBT people to paedophilia.
Wiewiórka said that she was accepting the award “not just in my own name, but in the name of all pro-life activists, who every day demonstrate the value of human life, who take it to the streets to say out loud that abortion is murder”, despite “facing aggression and violence” from their opponents.
“In recent days, my family and I have fallen victim to a massive attack by pro-abortion groups…that promote illegal abortion, which aim to intimidate me and force me to abandon the struggle for the life of the unborn,” added Wiewiórka, saying that this has included threats against her and the publication of personal information.
However, critics of Wiewiórka – and of the justice ministry’s decision to honour her – argue that it is she who is responsible for harassment, due to the manner in which she prevented a 17-year-old girl from having an abortion.
It began when, in a closed Facebook group for people seeking abortion advice, the girl wrote that she was considering terminating an unwanted pregnancy. She then started to receive a string of messages from Wiewiórka, including images of aborted foetuses. The teenager has shared screenshots of the message and complained that she was harassed, reports Interia.
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With the girl refusing to change her mind, Wiewiórka then contacted her boyfriend and parents, who were unaware of the pregnancy, reports Wysokie Obcasy.
“It turned out that [the boyfriend] did not even know that he was the father,” wrote Wiewiórka. “He and the girl’s parents stood up to the task and managed to prevent the killing of this unborn child, for which I thank God and this young girl…[who] has avoided a huge mistake that [she] could have regretted her whole life.”
While Fundacja Pro-Prawo do Życia celebrated the effective intervention, Krystyna Kacpura, head of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, condemned the invasion of the girl’s privacy. She said that pro-life activists have infiltrated many abortion-related forums and often attempt such interventions.
“We demand the cessation of intimidation and surveillance of women who are looking for information about abortion in online forums,” said Kacpura, quoted by Wysokie Obcasy. “The provision of information is legal in our country. But is it really legal to interfere in someone else’s life so deeply?”
Another pro-choice organisation, the Abortion Dream Team, called the intervention a form of “torture”, and condemned groups that “spread hatred, lies and manipulation” about abortion.
A women’s right group, Ogólnopolski Strajk Kobiet, posted a screenshot appearing to show that Wiewiórka has endorsed blowing up buildings where abortions take place, and raised the idea of murdering those who carry out abortions, because it would save the lives of unborn children, reports Wprost.
The issue of abortion returned to the centre of public debate last month, when legislation that would outlaw almost all legally conducted terminations in Poland returned to the parliamentary agenda. The bill, which is a citizen’s initiative, was voted through to the next stage of the legislative process by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, with most opposition parties voting against it.
Opinion polls show that only a small minority in Poland favour tightening the abortion law, with a larger group wanting it to be liberalised. Most, however, appear to favour sticking with the current “compromise”, introduced in 1993, that allows abortion only in cases of a threat to the life or health of the mother, if the pregnancy results from a criminal act, or if the foetus is diagnosed with a birth defect.
Main image credit: Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości/Twitter
Agnieszka Wądołowska is managing editor of Notes from Poland. She has previously worked for Gazeta.pl and Tokfm.pl and contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, Wysokie Obcasy, Duży Format, Midrasz and Kultura Liberalna