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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 10:39 GMT
Polish woman fights abortion case
European Court of Human Rights
Europe's human rights court has influenced laws in many nations
A Polish woman who was refused an abortion despite warnings that having a baby could make her blind is taking her case to Europe's human rights court.

Alicja Tysiac's eyesight worsened drastically after she had her third baby, and she fears she will go blind.

In staunchly Catholic Poland, abortion is illegal unless the health of the mother or unborn child is at risk.

Ms Tysiac is arguing that she ought to have been entitled to an abortion on therapeutic grounds.

When she became pregnant for a third time in February 2000, three eye specialists told her having a baby could put her eyesight at serious risk.

All, however, refused to authorise a termination of her pregnancy.

Two months later she visited a gynaecologist to ask for an abortion. He also refused.

Abortion curbs

Ms Tysiac now wears glasses with thick, powerful lenses, but cannot see objects more than a metre-and-a-half away.

As a disabled single mother, she finds it a struggle to raise her three children on her own, on a pension of 140 euros (96) a month.

Poland has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

The European Court of Human Rights cannot throw out Poland's laws, but it could rule that Ms Tysiac's rights have been violated.

The head of a group that is fighting to change Poland's abortion laws has told the BBC that very few women are able to terminate their pregnancies.

"The practice of the Polish abortion law is even stricter than the law itself," Wanda Nowiska, from the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, said.

"So in Poland we have no more than 200 legal abortions per year. That shows the magnitude of the problem," she said.

Abortion was widely available in Poland under communism.

Following its collapse, a resurgent Catholic church sponsored legislation that said a pregnancy could only be terminated in three circumstances:

  • Where it could save the mother's life

  • Where the foetus was irreparably damaged

  • Where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

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