This week, a 41-year-old Polish woman told the newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, that after she miscarried at 18 weeks, police believed she was lying and searched the sewers for the fetus they believed she had aborted.
Per the Telegraph, citing the Polish news source, the woman, Ola, went to the hospital when she began to experience severe pain during her pregnancy. Doctors initially said her fetus was healthy, gave her medication, and sent her home. Days later, she miscarried and was taken to the hospital. Ola said she called her husband once there, but she claims the police took her husband’s phone from him and began questioning her. She told Gazeta Wyborcza she believes one of the paramedics attending to her in the ambulance reported her to the police, after accusing her of “aborting and drowning her baby in the toilet.”
Abortion has been totally banned in Poland for two years now. The law allows abortion to save the pregnant person’s life, but nonetheless, several Polish women have died as a result of being denied emergency abortion care because their doctors were afraid they’d go to prison if they provided it. It’s a reality that closely reflects numerous American women’s near-death experiences since the fall of Roe v. Wade.
While Ola was still hospitalized, she learned that Polish prosecutors had ordered her home’s sewage system to be searched for an aborted fetus, as well as her home’s septic tank to be searched for evidence. Prosecutors requested that septic tank cleaners funnel the contents of the tank to search for the remains of her fetus, but the cleaners refused.
Ola said police also took her underwear, the scissors she used to cut her umbilical cord, and collected blood from her floor for their investigation. Police determined that the “miscarriage did not occur” and she had lost her pregnancy
“as a result of criminal actions of third parties” (it’s unclear which third parties they were referring to.) This prompted the district prosecutor to issue proceedings against her, but they dropped the case months later.
Ola told the Polish news outlet she’s coming forward with her story because she keeps hearing gut-wrenching accounts of people being investigated and punished by the police. In particular, she cited a story she heard of one woman who was ordered by police to undress and perform squats after she was caught taking abortion pills.
Earlier this year, a Polish activist was found guilty of aiding an abortion because she’d mailed abortion pills to a woman who was trying to escape an abusive relationship during the pandemic. Last June, Poland created a national pregnancy registry—a wildly dangerous development, because when abortion is banned, all pregnancies become potential crime scenes. Ola’s story is a perfect example of this.
Criminal investigations of pregnancy outcomes have been happening in the U.S. for years—even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe—and the spread of state abortion bans only leaves pregnant people more vulnerable. As Ola shares her story in Poland, in the U.S., a teenager in Nebraska was just sentenced to 90 days in jail for taking abortion pills when she was 17. A California woman has shared the story of police entering her home, seizing her miscarried fetus, and arresting her husband while the two planned to have a grieving ceremony after her miscarriage. And, just as Ola suspects she was reported to Polish police by paramedics, people who face criminal charges over their pregnancies in the U.S. are most often reported on by their medical providers.