İrem UZUN -TDO- Poland's top court has ruled that abortions in cases of foetal defects are unconstitutional. Poland's abortion laws were already among the strictest in Europe but the Constitutional Tribunal's ruling will mean an almost total ban. Chief justice Julia Przylebska said in a ruling on Thursday existing legislation, which allows for the abortion of malformed fetuses, was “incompatible” with the constitution. 

After the ruling goes into effect, abortion will only be permissible in Poland in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health and life, which make up only about 2% of legal terminations conducted in recent years.  The verdict drew immediate condemnation from the Council of Europe, whose commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, called it “a sad day for women’s rights”. “Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates human rights,” Mijatovic tweeted. The European Commission has expressed serious concerns regarding breaches of the rule of law in Poland and has proposed linking funding for member states to respect for this value.

Human rights groups have also hit out against the ruling. Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Human Rights Watch had said they would send independent monitors to the hearing.  They said in a joint statement: "Given our longstanding and publicly expressed concerns about the human rights of women and girls that are at stake, we view it as essential to observe the proceedings in this important case. The constitutional tribunal’s upcoming proceedings take place in the context of repeated government attacks on women’s rights and efforts to roll back reproductive rights, as well as legal and policy changes that have undermined the independence of the judiciary and rule of law in Poland". 

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