Report by Elfirede Harth

Alicja Tysiac is a Polish woman who succeeded, with the support of various organizations, including the European Network Church on the Move, to have the Catholic hierarchy in Poland apologize to her.

Alicja, a mother of three, won a process against Poland for the Polish government not having granted her access to abortion that Polish law provided for. Women in Poland may decide to terminate a pregnancy for therapeutic reasons: to save their life or their health. When Alicja got pregnant for the third time she learned that she risked becoming blind. She decided to terminate this pregnancy but was denied access to abortion. As a result she gave birth to her third child and her view has terribly suffered, becoming almost blind.

Alicja then filed a case against her country with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and won. Poland was condemned to pay her reparations, which was particularly important, as she is a very poor woman, whose new handicap made life even more difficult. At the same time, the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights represented a landmark victory for women in Poland, whose right not to die or not to be damaged for the rest of their life for giving birth was fully acknowledged and gained international protection.

However, for the Catholic hierarchy in Poland this victory for women’s rights represented a backset in their desire to impose on pregnant women the expropriation of their body. In a diocesan newspaper they denounced Alicja’s fight for the application of Polish law calling her a “child murderer” (although she had actually not terminated her pregnancy but given birth).

Alicja decided to file a suit for defamation against the hierarchy and won the process. For the first time in Polish history, the hierarchy was condemned by a Polish court to apologize to a Polish woman and to pay an indemnity of around Euro 10,000.

The hierarchy will appeal to the verdict. An international committee of support for Alicja will be created and the European Network will be an integral part of it.