Russia’s invasion of Ukraine | Abortion during the war

Seventy -five thousand. This is the number of women having legal abortions every year in Ukraine. From the beginning of the war, what do women do who want to end their pregnancy? Where are they going?

Posted at 6:00 am

Alice Girard-Bosse

Alice Girard-Bosse
The Press

Most of the 5.5 million refugees who fled Ukraine in recent months have retreated to countries where access to abortion is almost completely banned, such as Poland, or strictly restricted, such as Hungary and Romania.

In fact, Poland has one of the most stringent abortion laws in Europe. Intervention is only legal when the health or life of the pregnant woman is in danger, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Ukrainian women, who have found refuge in this neighboring country and want to terminate their pregnancy, should therefore often turn to an international abortion assistance organization.

Between 1eh March and April 19, the international organization Abortion Without Borders received 267 calls from people from Ukraine asking for help with abortions, The Press Mara Clarke, founder and director of the UK Abortion Support Network. Her organization helps people who want an abortion in a dozen countries, including Poland, Ireland, Romania, Hungary, France, Spain, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

A dangerous help

Once refugees began to cross the border into Poland, international abortion assistance organizations took action. They prepared medical pills for abortion, a safe way to terminate pregnancy for up to 12 weeks, and attached instructions in Ukrainian and Russian on how to take them correctly.

But how to send pills to refugees fleeing the conflict if they don’t have an address? This is one of the challenges facing organizations, as any man or doctor who helps pregnant women to have illegal abortions in Poland faces up to three years in prison.


Mara Clarke, Founder and Director of the UK Abortion Support Network

“If I host a refugee and let him or her use my address to order pills, am I criminally responsible? If I take him to the clinic? If I give her money for the bus to an abortion clinic? “said M.ako Clarke. All of her questions remain unanswered and concerned with abortion assistance organizations.

Thanks to the work of the respondents and their partners in Poland, most of the 267 Ukrainian women were able to abort safely using abortion pills.

“Other women, whose pregnancies are more advanced, are referred to abortion clinics in the Netherlands and England,” said the international organization Women Help Women (WHW), which focuses on making abortion accessible .

The women who remained in Ukraine were not left behind, however, the WHW organization assures. “We are doing our best to help all Ukrainian women with unwanted pregnancies to leave Ukraine and we are working with feminist organizations in Ukraine to provide access to emergency contraception and safe abortion pills to those still in the country, “he said via email to The Press.

The complex rape case

The challenge is just as great for Ukrainian women who became pregnant after being raped by Russian soldiers. “We are certain that there is a small percentage of women fleeing Ukraine who are pregnant as a result of rape, either by Russian soldiers, or by violent partners, or by other men present. On the lookout for vulnerable refugees, “said MS.ako Clarke.

However, the number of victims remains difficult to count.

We don’t ask our interlocutors how they got pregnant or why they want an abortion. For us, any woman who needs an abortion and asks for our help will receive our help.

Mara Clarke, Founder and Director of the Abortion Support Network

Although abortion is legal in Poland in rape cases, it is very difficult to obtain. “The process is incredibly traumatic and includes obtaining a certificate from a prosecutor to prove that a rape has taken place. This procedure is very difficult for people living in Poland, and more so for refugees, ”Said the founder of the Abortion Support Network.

Organizations will be busy over the next few weeks. Stakeholders fear that the number of people needing an abortion will increase later. “We expect the numbers to increase as more people cross borders, live and discover pregnancies,” Ms.ako Clarke.

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