By Natalia Dueholm
The baby girl who survived an abortion died on Friday, February 28, 2014. She lived about three weeks, fighting problems due to her premature birth. She had Down’s syndrome, as well as heart and kidney problems. She was born in the Provincial Specialist Hospital.
According to the Polish weekly “Wprost,” the girl’s death was announced by Małgorzata Klaus, a spokesperson for the Provincial prosecutor. She also explained that the investigation into medical malpractice was closed. Klaus confirmed that another investigation into the circumstances of the baby’s death was ongoing.
The media initially reported that the girl was aborted at 22 weeks, though her weight of approximately 1.5 pounds could suggest she was older. That would constitute an abortion after viability, which is illegal in Poland. Also, Down’s syndrome is disputed as legal grounds for a eugenic abortion. The law says that abortion is permitted “when a doctor believes the baby has a severe and irreversible handicap or an incurable and life threatening disease.” This phrasing has been subject to interpretation and debate.
What saved the baby?
The circumstances of this case are still unclear. Prof. Wojciech Witkiewicz, the director of the hospital, refused to talk to journalists, citing patient confidentiality. He added that the baby’s family did not wish to communicate about the matter.
According to the Catholic portal www.gosc.pl, the baby was rescued thanks to the proper reaction of a doctor who witnessed the failed abortion. The news service www.wpolityce.pl reported that this so-called “termination of pregnancy” involved giving the mother an abortifacient, possibly Cytotec. Sometimes women’s bodies react quickly to this drug, which apparently happened in this case. Allegedly the hospital was forced to save the baby because the induced labor took place in the patient’s room with many unwanted witnesses.
Natalia Dueholm, a Polish journalist, is an editor of the quarterly “Opcja na Prawo.” She was a contributor to the 2011 “Open Letter from Women Journalists Against Abortion” which is available in English online here.