ECtHR decision P & S v Poland: delayed access to abortion after rape

Many thanks to Y.Y. Brandon Chen, a doctoral student in Law at the University of Toronto, for summarizing this important case for our Reprohealthlaw Blog:

P. and S. v. Poland, no. 57375/08, [2012] E.C.H.R. 1853.

A fourteen-year-old who became pregnant as a result of rape encountered much difficulty seeking legal abortion.  She and her mother were given false information regarding the procedural requirements of obtaining an abortion; pressured by doctors, religious personnel and anti-abortion activists to change their minds; and, denied abortion without receiving referrals by doctors invoking conscientious objection.  When an abortion was finally arranged by the government, the procedure took place in a clandestine manner and without proper post-abortion care.  

The government of Poland was found to have violated its positive duty to safeguard the respect for the teenager’s and her mother’s private life when it failed to ensure their effective access to legal abortion.  The teenager’s right to respect for her private life was further breached when her health and other personal information was unlawfully released to the press by a public hospital.  The Court also found a violation of the teenager’s right to liberty when the government placed her under state custody for the primary purpose of preventing the abortion.  Considering the teenager’s entire experience, especially having regard to her young age, the Court further held that the government had infringed her right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment.

Full decision is online here.


“P&S v Poland: Adolescents, vulnerability and reproductive autonomy, by Johanna Westeson of CRR   Strasbourg Observers blog

“European Court Issues Momentous Decision Against Poland, Says Legal Abortion Following Rape Must Be Ensured”  More from Center for Reproductive Rights

Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning: 
Federa comment,   ASTRA press release
Applicants’ appreciation of the decision

Links to international media coverage in English

Litigation briefing re three abortion access cases against Poland in the European Court of Human Rights online, Center for Reproductive Rights

(Z v Poland case decision will be issued November 13, 2012)

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