Polish Government Pushes to Limit Emergency Contraception Access

On February 14 the Polish government accepted a proposal to restrict access to over-the-counter emergency contraception, with plans in place to discuss the proposal in plenary and a possible vote occurring in the March session of the Sejm.

Acceptance of the proposal follows a November 2016 announcement by the Polish minister of health seeking to reinstate the necessity of a doctor’s prescription to obtain ulipristal acetate emergency contraception pills (UPA ECPs). The minister claimed “misuse of the pill” by teenage girls as the impetus for a tightening of restrictions.

Recent studies conducted by research and media agency Millward Brown, however, suggest such claims seem to be untrue. Data show that the majority of those acquiring UPA ECPs(45%) are women between the ages of 25 and 30,followed by 30 to 35 year olds (18%), with young women under the age of 18accounting for only 2percent of combined sales.

In response to the proposal, the Central and Eastern European Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASTRA), in conjunction with the European Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ECEC), presented a letter of protest to representatives of the European Commission. Voicing concerns about recent developments in Poland regarding women’s reproductive health rights, ASRTRA and the ECEC cited the difficulty of obtaining safe, legal abortions within the country, raised concerns over sales of UPA ECPs from unsafe sources and voiced worry at the potential for an overall increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies that could potentially result from the proposal’s acceptance into Polish legal code.

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