No charges pressed
After an investigation of 4 months, Women on Waves has been cleared of accusations of performing illegal abortions in Poland and of introducing illegal abortion pills into Polish market. The Polish prosecutor's office stated that accusations against the crew had been dismissed because there is no evidence that Women on Waves brook any Polish laws.
On June 16, 2003 Women on Waves set sail for Poland. We were invited by a coalition of Polish women's organisations called the "STER committee- women decide", to support them in their struggle for legal and safe abortion. The ship "Langenort" with its all-most all female crew, arrived in Polish waters on June 20th. In the mobile clinic of the Langenort Women on Waves offered a range of activities and services including workshops and information on sexual health. In additions to these services, the medical staff has also provided safe and legal early medical abortion care (till 45 days of pregnancy) after sailing into international waters, which is 12 miles off the coast, where Dutch law applies.
Polish extreme right political groups demanded of the local prosecutor to start an investigation and examine whether the Polish law had been violated. The local prosecutor started an investigation concerning distribution of illegal medicines on Polish territory. All the passengers have been questioned and even though no charges have been pressed, we condemn these hearings as a form of intimidation and additionally a violation of the right to privacy and right to free travel of the women that sailed with us. Women on Waves did not distribute any illegal medicines on Polish territory.
During the Langenort's two-week stay in Poland, hundreds of desperate women called the ship's hotline. The Langenort sailed into international waters 3 times, where the medical staff provided the abortion pill to several women.
The very restrictive Polish laws made it impossible to speak openly about the nature of our services. This is a violation of the basic human right to give and receive information, as agreed in European Convention of Human Rights also signed by Poland.
The ship has had an enormous effect on the public opinion as shown by opinion polls done after the ship had left Poland. Statistics gathered from the surveys done by the Centrum Badania Opinii Spolecznej (the official Polish polling bureau, published in September BS /139/2003) have shown that 61 % of the people in Poland want abortion to be liberalised. Before the ships visit (fall 2002) 44 % of the population was for the liberalization of abortion on social/economic grounds. After the ships visit to Poland (fall 2003) this percentage was 56%, an increase with 12 % ! The polling bureau writes in its report that this increase might be the result of the Langenorts visit to Poland.
At the end of October, legislators of the ruling leftist party (Social Democratic Alliance, SLD) publicly presented plans to liberalize the nation's strict anti-abortion law. According to the proposed regulations, abortion will be legal on request during the first 12th weeks of pregnancy. Women on Waves hopes this law will be passed during the Parliamental vote.