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29 September 2008

Registration of Pregnant Women in Poland

By Diana Hsieh

Would the enforcement of Colorado's Amendment 48 -- the ballot measure that would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs -- lead to draconian police controls to prevent harm to any embryo or fetus? It's supporters say no, claiming that the measure would just "resore the intrinsic value of every human being, no matter what stage of development."

However, this article on Poland's plan to register pregnant women -- and investigate the cause if a birth doesn't take place -- shows the intrusive measures required for the kind of vigorous ban on abortion sought by the God-warriors behind Amendment 48.

The Polish Government has plans to register pregnant women.

At an informal meeting with journalists on September 11, the Minister of Health, Ewa Kopacz, declared that she had plans to establish a new department within the Ministry office -- the Department on Mother and Child. This department will design a new social and health program concerning pregnant women -- and it will be responsible for maintaining a registry of pregnant women.

If a woman agrees to join the program, her data will be registered in a "special system", to enable doctors and nurses to keep contact with her, stated Ms. Kopacz. Women participating in the program will have a chance to undertake additional medical examinations, and they will not wait long hours for a visit with the gynecologist.

That is how the Ministry of Health envisions its fight against illegal abortion. It wants to register pregnant women and afterwards to undertake control as to whether or not a woman gives birth to a child in the end. In Poland, abortion is legal only to save a woman's life or preserve her health.

If a woman participating in the program does not attend medical checks as previously agreed, it will be the responsibility of a midwife to establish contact with her, Minister Kopacz emphasized.

"If we find out that a woman registered in the system is not yet pregnant before her pregnancy due date, it could mean that she has had a miscarriage or she has terminated her pregnancy," said Jakub Gołąb, a spokesman of the Ministry. "That way, we shall receive information about the scope of abortion underground in Poland." Golab claimed that the fight against underground or illegal abortion will be an indirect consequence of introducing the program. He could not say whether doctors would be obliged to report to the Ministry and submit all data related to women who declared they had undergone an abortion. We do know that all doctors will be given instructions by the Ministry, according to which -- after confirming a woman's pregnancy - they will be obliged to record it in a special register. ...

On the very next day, September 12, the Ministry's representative said that there would be no mandatory registration of pregnant women or control over women who are pregnant. He further stated that the discussion which followed on the news had been adversely interpreted by journalists. He emphasized that there would only be data collected on women who freely joined the program.
How long before women are required to register? How long before doctors must report pregnancies, under penalty of law? Whether that happens in Poland or not, it's certainly possible, particularly when the government controls health care. (That's yet another reason why defenders of reproductive rights should support a fully free market in medicine, rather than more government controls and entitlements.)

Do we have any reason to hope that the Christian fanatics pushing for Amendment 48 -- who currently show no concern for its sweeping legal effects -- would refrain from demanding and enacting such draconian measures in order to protect the God-given right to life of every embryo?

I think not.

For more on the legal consequences of Amendment 48, see CSG's own issue paper "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person" by Ari Armstrong and myself.

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