Update: One day after nationwide protests over a new restriction in Poland's abortion law, health officials have told doctors they may legally end a pregnancy when the life or health of the mother is in danger. The Health Ministry made the announcement in the form of instructions to obstetricians, the AP reports. "It should be clearly stressed that doctors must not be afraid to take evident decisions stemming from their experience and the available medical knowledge," the instructions say. The document suggests steps in the event of premature loss of the amniotic fluid, which was the case in the death of a woman who went into septic shock. Our original story from Nov. 6 follows:
Protesters turned out in Warsaw and in many other Polish cities Saturday to decry the country's restrictive abortion law, which they say has led to the death of a young mother during a pregnancy that had medical problems. The protesters held portraits of the woman, 30-year-old Iza, who died in a hospital in Pszczyna, southern Poland, of septic shock. She died in September, but her death just became known in the past week, the AP reports. Doctors at the hospital held off terminating her 22-week pregnancy despite the fact that her fetus lacked enough amniotic fluid to survive, her family and a lawyer say. The doctors have been suspended, and prosecutors are investigating.
Women's rights activists say the woman was a victim of Poland's newly restrictive abortion law. They say doctors in Poland, a heavily Catholic nation, now wait for a fetus with severe defects to die in the womb rather than perform an abortion. Participating in the protest in Warsaw, under the motto of "Not One More" woman to die, was Donald Tusk, the former European Union leader who now leads Poland's opposition. The protesters gathered before the Constitutional Tribunal that ruled last year that terminating a pregnancy involving congenital defects is against the constitution. They then marched to the Health Ministry. Those in favor of the restriction say it's not clear that it led to the woman’s death. (Read more anti-abortion laws stories.)