Por Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

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Justyna Wydrzyńska

Justyna Wydrzyńska is an activist and advocate for abortion rights in Poland. She was recently convicted for helping a woman to carry out and abortion during the pandemic.

Justyna Wydrzyńska is a fundamental pillar in the fight for women’s reproductive rights in Poland, a country where these rights are in constant danger and threat due to the government’s ultraconservative and anti-feminist policy.

As a human rights defender, since 2006, Justyna has participated in campaigns for the right to legal and safe abortion in Poland. In 2016, Justyna was one of the founders of the pro-abortion NGO Aborto Dream Team that, along with 5 other organisations, is part of Abortion Without Borders. For years, Justyna has worked tirelessly to support Polish women who decide to abort, often in very difficult situations and with the constant threat of the criminalisation of abortion and their activism. 

In 2020, the Polish government passed a law that further restricted access to legal abortion in the country, provoking a de facto ban on abortion rights in the country. Justyna Wydrzyńska was one of the activists who led protests against the Constitutional Court ruling and publicly defended women’s right to decide on their own bodies. 

Polish abortion legislation is currently one of the most restrictive ones in Europe. The Polish health system does not allow pregnant women access to abortion without giving any reason. There are only two justifications to carry out an abortion: when women are victims of sexual violence and when the life or health of the mother is at risk. In practice, however, getting access to safe abortion is highly difficult for women. Moreover, although women cannot be criminalized for managing their own abortion, anyone who helps them faces penalties of up to 3 years in prison. Networking between organisations from different countries allows them to overcome existing legal obstacles in Poland, in order to continue providing information and logistical support to women who decide to terminate their pregnancy.

In 2020, Justyna helped Ania, a woman who lived with her violent partner, in her decision to voluntarily terminate her pregnancy. After not being able to travel to a German clinic for abortion, due to threats from her partner to report her kidnapping if she left the country with her three-year-old son, Ania contacted Abortion Without Borders. It was the beginning of the pandemic and she could not be supplied the abortion pills by postal mail. Ania’s story reminded Justyna of her own experience. Therefore, she sent her abortion pills. The husband intercepted the package and denounced them both.  “I didn’t want her to abort, I wanted for her to have her own choice, to be able to decide once she had the pills,” says Justyna, who pleaded not guilty

In March 2023, she was sentenced to 9 months of restriction of her freedom by providing community work, a decision that has been strongly criticised internationally. This sentence is an exemplifying punishment for her work as a human rights defender, which seeks to spread fear among those who support or fight for the right to access safe and legal abortion. 

Justyna Wydrzyńska is a woman at the forefront of the struggle for women’s rights in Poland in a context of constant political threat. Her work is an example of commitment and struggle for social justice and human rights. However, as she says, there is still much left to be done in the fight for women’s reproductive rights in Europe and around the world. 

Interview to Justyna Wydrzyńska

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Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

Mujeres al frente es un espacio de reflexión dirigido por la política y abogada española Soraya Rodríguez Ramos. Desde 2019, es diputada del Parlamento Europeo en la delegación del partido Ciudadanos. Desde su escaño de eurodiputada, desarrolla un intenso trabajo como portavoz en Igualdad de Género y Derechos de la Mujer del grupo Renew Europe, así como miembro del Comité de Derechos Humanos y de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente por su compromiso con el cuidado del planeta y la justicia climática.