​'Abortion drone' to drop pregnancy-terminating pills on Polish town

Reuters / Ken Bohn
An ‘abortion drone’ is set to fly to Poland this week to deliver pills that will allow women to safely terminate their pregnancies. Around 50,000 underground abortions are believed to take place in Poland each year due to the nation's strict restrictions.

The drone will be sent by Women on Waves, a Netherlands-based non-profit organization which provides medical abortion pills around theworld.

Arriving at the Polish town of Slubice on Saturday, the drone aims to drop several packages of pills weighing under 5kg in total. The packets are to be received by women's groups, which will then distribute them to women who need them.

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Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, founder and director of Women on Waves, says the drone mission will help women practically, while raising awareness about Europe's unequal abortion laws.

“I think it’s extremely important because within Europe there’s so much inequality and difference in how women’s rights are being respected,” Gomperts said, as quoted by The Telegraph.

“We can’t stop pointing out the lack of safe access to abortion and medical abortion pills. It’s a violation of women’s rights. We have to make every effort to make sure they get that access,” she added.

The drone will fly to the Polish town from Frankfurt, Germany, where abortion is legal.

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Gomperts said Poland was chosen as a destination because of the lack of awareness about its abortion laws.

She admits she doesn't “know what the government's going to do,” but says there are “no regulations or laws that prevent us from doing this or any that say it would be illegal.”

It is, however, illegal for Polish women to take the pills if they do not meet the country's criteria for abortion. Despite this, women cannot be imprisoned for terminating a pregnancy, although a physician who performs an abortion in violation of the law can be sentenced for up to two years in prison.

Abortion in Poland has been restricted since 1993. A woman can only terminate her pregnancy when there is a serious threat to her health, in cases of rape or incest, or when the fetus has a serious defect. It is estimated that around 50,000 underground abortions take place in the country every year.

This has led to many women in Poland using websites like Women on Waves, which provides online medical consultations with licensed doctors before allowing women to buy abortion pills.

The pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, are on the World Health Organization’s 'Essential Medicines' list. They can be taken up to the ninth week of pregnancy and have the same health impact as a spontaneous miscarriage.

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The drone is being sent in collaboration with Cocia Basia, a Berlin-based abortion support group for Polish women, Polish women's group Fundacja Feminoteka (Feminine Foundation), and the informal collective Porozumienie Kobiet 8 Marca (Agreement of March 8 Women) – all of which campaign for the legalization of abortion in Poland.

If the drone delivery is a success, Gomperts says it could be deployed in Ireland, where women can only get abortions if their lives are seriously at risk.

Abortions are widely available in most European countries, though certain conditions must be met in Cyprus, Finland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.