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Poland

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OVERVIEW

Poland is experiencing what some call a "sexual revolution in reverse," as the Catholic Church displays increasingly greater influence on public policy. Birth control is legal but a prescription is required. Emergency contraception (the morning after pill) is available in Poland if you're over 15 years old, but this has been challenged, and it may require a prescription in the future. You can purchase pads and tampons, and there are actually quite a few Polish menstrual cup sellers as well. Regarding STIs, there are no travel restrictions, though you may be required to take an HIV test if you plan to stay in Poland for more than three months. There seems to be no known resource for providing PrEP or PEP. There is also no HPV vaccination program. In the past few years, the conservative government has taken a harsh stance on reproductive measures. They have announced that they will stop funding of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and that women must claim a male father in order to receive IVF treatment. Most controversially, the government has proposed a bill that would make abortion completely illegal. The current Polish abortion laws are also much more restrictive than in most other European countries, and these changes have brought a great deal of public outcry.

Contraception (Birth Control)[edit]

General Note: There are many types of contraceptives, also known as "birth control," including IUDs, oral contraceptives, patches, shots, and condoms, etc. If you would like to view a full list, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

In Poland, birth control pills are only available with a prescription. There appears to be a six-cycle maximum for prescriptions. After six months, women may need to obtain a new birth control prescription.[1] Note that, in some cases, women have been asked if they are married when requesting to receive a prescription. However, there are progressive Polish physicians, as well, and experiences vary.

From 1952-1989, Poland was under communist rule as the Polish People's Republic, and it served as a satellite state of the Soviet Union. During these years, birth control pills were legal and widely accessible. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the Polish People's Republic, the Catholic Church became increasingly powerful in Polish society. Today, this has created an environment in which doctors or pharmacists can refuse to sell birth control to women. Some have called the situation in Poland a "sexual revolution in reverse," as Polish society seems to be undoing years of social progress.

Historically, some of the earliest changes came in 1991, when the Polish government removed subsidies for birth control, thereby tripling the price. As reported by the New York Times in 1991, "Since June 1989, when Poland's first non-Communist leaders in half a century took office, elements in the country's Catholic church have been pressing for parliamentary adoption of laws reflecting the church's social agenda. In the last year the Government has introduced voluntary religion classes in the public schools and tightened divorce laws."[2] In the past few years, the Catholic Church has vocally opposed public education on family planning, LGBT rights and sex education. The Church was most recently inflamed by "gender workshops," which encouraged sex education for young people. In response, the Church supported posters that stated “Protect Your Child Against Gender," which were plastered around schools in 2013.[3] As reported by the New York Times in early 2014, "Almost every day there are new pronouncements warning against gender ideology, for example, as when a priest commented in a talk in Poznan that 'gender leads to the devastation of families' and 'is associated with radical feminism, which advocates for abortion, the employment of women and the detention of children in preschools.'"[4]

Overall, Polish society is at a crossroads. Birth control pills are still legal, but sex education is very limited and, as reported by the New York Times, "even scientists speak in one voice with the church..."[5] This means that less and less women may be educated on contraceptives in the future, and there may be increasing problems related to accessibility, information and social stigma.

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

In Poland, you will need to visit a physician ("lekarz" in Polish) to obtain a birth control prescription. To say contraceptive/birth control in Polish, you can say "antykoncepcyjny." Once you've obtained a prescription, you can purchase birth control at a pharmacy ("apteka" in Polish). If you already have a foreign birth control prescription, it may not be accepted in Polish pharmacies, so you should visit a pharmacy to confirm. Some common birth control brands in Poland are Microgynon, Minisiston, Rigevidon and Stediril 30.

Costs[edit]

If you choose to get a prescription through the public health care system (NFZ), the appointment may be free. If you get an appointment at a private clinic, you will pay more. Birth control pills are about 30-50 PLN (Polish Zloty) for a one month supply. The ring is about 80 PLN for a month supply.

Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pill)[edit]

Important Notes: Emergency contraception may prevent pregnancy for three days (72 hours) and sometimes five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. Take EC as soon as possible after unprotected sex. If you don't have access to dedicated EC, oral contraceptives can be used as replacement EC, but remember the following: 1) Only some contraceptives work as EC 2) Different contraceptives require different dosages and time schedules to work as EC 3) You must only use the first 21 pills in 28-day packs and 4) They may be less effective than dedicated EC. For general information on emergency contraceptives, click here and here.

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

UPDATE: The Polish President has approved a law that makes emergency contraception prescription-only. The law will go into effect in August 2017.[6]

Currently, emergency contraception (the morning after pill) is available in Poland without a prescription (if you're over 15 years old). This will change in August 2017, when it will become prescription-only, including for rape survivors.[7] The background behind the law change is as follows: The Law and Justice Party (PiS) has wanted to make emergency contraception only available by prescription. This goes against how it's currently accessed in most European countries (i.e. no prescription needed) and it goes against the recommendations of the European Medicines Agency, which states that EC can be used safely and effectively without a prescription. However, the Polish Roman Catholic Church strongly condemns the use of morning after pill. Furthermore, in 2015, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin stated that morning after pills amount to "express abortion."[8] In June 2017, the Polish President approved a law to make emergency contraception only available by prescription.[9]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Note: The longest-lasting EC is currently ellaOne. It lasts up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex, and it's carried in Poland. Copper IUDs may also prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex. If none of these options are available, and it's been over 3 days since you had unprotected sex, you can still take EC, which may work up to 5 days. Note that EC pills are not 100% effective and should be taken as soon as possible.

The information below is provided by the Princeton EC Website:

Dedicated Products / Anti-Progestin Take 1 pill within 120 hours after unprotected sex:[10]

Dedicated Products / Progestin Only Take 1 pill within 120 hours after unprotected sex:[11]

  • Escapelle

Take 2 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex:[12]

  • Postinor Duo

Oral Contraceptives used for EC / Progestin-Estrogen Combined Note: in 28-day packs, only the first 21 pills can be used Take 4 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex and take 4 more pills 12 hours later:[13]

  • Microgynon
  • Minisiston
  • Rigevidon
  • Stediril 30

Costs[edit]

In 2014, the morning after pill was about €12 in Polish pharmacies.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs/STDs)[edit]

Important Notes - Learn about PEP and PrEP: If you think that you've been recently exposed to HIV (i.e. within 72 hours), seek out PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). It's a month-long treatment to prevent HIV infection after exposure, and it may be available in your city. Take PEP as soon as possible. For more information, click here. If you are at risk of HIV exposure, seek out PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). It's a daily oral pill that can prevent HIV infection before exposure. To learn more about PrEP, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

If you're visiting Poland for a short-term visit, there are no restrictions attached to your STI status, and you're not required to take any STI tests. However, if you plan to stay in Poland for longer than 3 months, you may be required to take an HIV test. Furthermore, if you're a pregnant woman and you're "suspected of being infected," or if you birth a child who is infected, you may be required to take an HIV test. If you are a refugee applying for refugee status in Poland, you will probably be asked health questions, but HIV status is not a legal reason for rejection. You are allowed to import antiretroviral medication for personal use.[14]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

In Poland, you can find anonymous STI testing and treatment (see below for details). There is currently no Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) available in Poland. While Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is available in Europe, it's difficult to determine if it is available in Poland.

Testing Facilities[edit]

  • If you're employed in Poland and have health insurance, you'll need to get the right paperwork in order. To do this, go to a local/family doctor ("lekarz rodzinny" in Polish) and ask for a referral ("skierowanie" in Polish) for a facility that does comprehensive check-ups, including blood tests. Then, you visit the facility and register there. You can choose to do a public facility, which should be free but could have very long wait times for appointments (some people have reported waiting for months). Alternatively, you can go to a private facility, which will be more costly but should be efficient.
  • For local recommendations of testing sites, please visit the city pages, like the Warsaw pages.

Support[edit]

Costs[edit]

Medications & Vaccines[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

If you come down with a yeast infection, ask the pharmacist for a generic version of "Fluconazole." Regarding HPV, there seems to be no national HPV vaccination program in place, despite the fact that many other European nations have adopted such programs.[15]

Costs[edit]

Menstruation[edit]

Note: In addition to pads and tampons, you can also use menstrual cups and menstrual underwear for your period. To learn more about menstrual cups, click here. To learn more about menstrual underwear, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

In Poland, you can find pads, tampons and menstrual cups. For pads and tampons, you can purchase them in most stores, especially international chains like Carrefour. If you're interested in menstrual cups, you have a few options. For MoonCup, contact Magiczny Kubeczek (email: sklep@magicznykubeczek.pl). For LadyCup, contact Florencja Dorota Szulc, LadyCup.pl, EcoShop.com.pl, Magiczny Kubeczek, cincoterra.pl. For MoonCup, contact Eko Dystrybutor, Joga Wege Art, Kinky Winky (+18), Samo Uzdrawianie, Od Natury, Magiczny Kubeczek, Ekokobieta or Drogeria Ekologiczna. There seem to be no sellers of Lunette menstrual cups, so if you're interested in purchasing a Lunette, you should order online.

Costs[edit]

Gynecological Exams[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Costs[edit]

Pregnancy[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

The conservative Polish government has stated that it will stop state funding for in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Furthermore, a law was passed in October 2015 that only allowed women to undergo IVF if they named a man who would recognize the child as their own.[16] These laws attempt to fall in line with the Catholic Church, which opposed IVF because the Church believes it removes marital sex from procreation. Furthermore, Poland's Roman Catholic Church says that the freezing of embryos is equivalent to freezing human beings.[17]

Regarding maternity and paternity leave, as reported by the European Platform for Investing in Children, "Since January 2016, the leave system associated with childbirth was uniformed and made more flexible. Currently, the maternity leave lasts 20 weeks and paid parental leave lasts 32 weeks (can be divided into 4 parts). The cumulated length of paid leaves for the birth of one child amounts to 52 weeks. Fathers have 2 years for using 2 weeks of paternity leave they are entitled to."[18]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Costs[edit]

Abortion[edit]

Important Note: There are two main types of abortions: medical (also known as the "abortion pill") and surgical (also known as "in-clinic"). For medical abortions, you take a pill to induce abortion. For surgical abortions, a procedure is performed to induce abortion. For general information about medical and surgical abortions, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

In Poland, abortion is generally illegal. It is only permitted in certain circumstances, which include the following: when the woman's life is endangered by the pregnancy, when the pregnancy was caused by a criminal act (such as rape or incest), or when doctors determine that there is serious risk of fetus malformation. The pregnant woman must give written consent if she is a legal adult and able to give such consent. In other cases, a guardian must give legal consent. For all other cases, abortion is not available. This means that other general reasons for abortion, like economic/social reasons or availability upon request, are not permitted. For a brief time, Polish law allowed women to receive abortions due to their social or economic conditions, but this was later repealed. According to the Law on Family Planning, Human Embryo Protection and Conditions of Permissibility of Abortion Act (written in 1993 and 1997), "The right to life shall be subject to protection, including in the prenatal phase." Furthermore, "Upon being born, the child may demand redress for damages suffered before birth."[19]

If a woman illegally receives an abortion in Poland, she will be not be punished by the law. However, the physician or health care worker who provides the abortion may face up to 2 years of imprisonment. If someone terminates the pregnancy through "use of violence" or without the consent of the woman, that person faces 6 months to 8 years in prison. If anyone commits "bodily injury" to a fetus, that person may be subject to 2 years in prison. If the abortion results in the death of the woman, the heath care worker may receive up to 10 years in prison.[20]

During the communist years, Poland generally allowed abortion. In the 1950s, it was allowed under certain circumstances and, by the 1960s, abortion was available on request. This lead to some women in other European countries, like Sweden, traveling to Poland to receive abortions. However, with the fall of communism, Poland began to adopt more conservative policies toward abortion. In the 1990s, the government enacted newly severe abortion laws, making the country one of the most restrictive (in terms of abortion law) in Europe. In June 2015, Women on Waves delivered the abortion pill to Poland via drones, which flew from Germany to Poland. In late 2016, the Polish government began to pursue further restrictions. In October 2016, the Polish government proposed a new bill that would completely ban abortion. The bill would also punish women with up to 5 year prison sentences if they were found guilty of receiving an illegal abortion.[21] Following nationwide protests, the Polish parliament withdrew the potential abortion ban.

Officially, the Polish government reports about 744 abortions per year. It is estimated that the real number is closer to 50,000 abortions per year.[22]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

If women want to receive abortions, one of the most common options is to travel to Germany.

  • Ciocia Basia: "Ciocia Basia is an activist group created to support women who want to come to Berlin to have an abortion. We facilitate contact and appointments with confidential, non-judgemental counsellors and medical professionals who offer the abortion pill for 150 E and the surgical abortion for 170 E. We also help with the translation into and from Polish. We try to reduce the amount of time you have to stay in Berlin for the procedure to only one day. We can provide free accommodation in volunteer homes in Berlin if needed. We do not profit financially from our activism! Contact: ciocia.basia@riseup.net, 0049 15210385680." Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ciocia-Basia-728670193835998/
  • Kobiety w Sieci: "Kobiety w Sieci’s mission is to give all women information how to get abortion in Poland, legal and restricted. We give women virtual mental support while they are during the process of abortion. Our work is not only about abortion, we also support the choices of contraceptive methods, including contraception after abortion." Social media: https://www.facebook.com/kobiety.wsieci. Email: womenhelp@riseup.net
  • Women Help Women: "Through the online abortion and contraceptive service Women Help Women those in need can get access to abortion pills (up to 9 weeks of pregnancy), as well as contraceptives (contraceptive pills, emergency contraception, female and male condoms. The products are sent by post to an indicated home address. Online support of trained counselors is available in Polish and 6 other languages for those seeking help and information."

Costs[edit]

If a woman receives a legal abortion and she is a recipient of Polish health insurance, her abortion will be covered by the government. According to some reports, underground abortions in Poland go for up to 4000 euros.[23]

Advocacy & Counseling[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

  • Women's Rights Center in Warsaw, a nongovernmental organization, Urszula Nowakowska, director. E-mail: temida@pleaurn.edu.pl
  • Centrum Praw Kobiet Women's Rights Center: 00-679 Warsaw, Ul. Wilcza 60 #19, Email: temida@medianet.com.pl

Costs[edit]

List of Additional Resources[edit]

  • Lambda Warszawa Association (Lambda Warsaw Association) - The oldest running Polish LGBT organization
  • The Center for Women’s Rights: "The Center for Women’s Rights is an organization committed to ensuring the equal rights of men and women in the public and private spheres. In all our work, we are driven by the conviction that the rights of women are an integral, inseparable part of the fundamental humans rights all should enjoy. Violence against women, regardless of whether perpetrated by an individual abuser, by a section of society, or by government, constitutes a human rights violation."
  • Support and Development of Human Rights Foundation: Offers free legal counseling to sex workers. You can email Justyna Sobeyko: justynasobeyko@poczta.fm

References[edit]

  1. Global Oral Contraception Availability
  2. Poland Ends Subsidies for Birth Control Pills
  3. The Polish Church’s Gender Problem
  4. The Polish Church’s Gender Problem
  5. Poland is having a sexual revolution in reverse
  6. Poland makes emergency contraception a prescription-only drug — even for rape survivors
  7. Poland makes emergency contraception a prescription-only drug — even for rape survivors
  8. Poland to ban prescription-free emergency contraception
  9. Poland makes emergency contraception a prescription-only drug — even for rape survivors
  10. Princeton EC Website
  11. Princeton EC Website
  12. Princeton EC Website
  13. Princeton EC Website
  14. POLAND - REGULATIONS ON ENTRY, STAY AND RESIDENCE FOR PLHIV
  15. HPV Information Centre: Poland, Human Papillomavirus and Related Cancers, Fact Sheet 2016
  16. Polish ombudsman says IVF bill discriminates against single women
  17. Poland to end state funding for IVF treatment
  18. Poland: On the road to suitable solutions in family policy
  19. World Abortion Laws: Poland
  20. World Abortion Laws: Poland
  21. Women to go on strike in Poland in protest at planned abortion law
  22. A Drone Is Flying Abortion Pills From Germany to Poland This Weekend
  23. A Drone Is Flying Abortion Pills From Germany to Poland This Weekend