Russian invasion of Ukraine | Abortion during the war

Seventy-five thousand. This is the number of women who legally abort in Ukraine each year. Since the start of the war, what have women been doing who want to terminate their pregnancy? Where are they going?

Posted at 6:00

Alice Girard-Bosse

Alice Girard-Bosse
The print

Most of the 5.5 million refugees who fled Ukraine in recent months have withdrawn to countries where access to abortion is almost completely forbidden, such as Poland, or severely restricted, such as Hungary and Romania. .

In fact, Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. The intervention is only legal when the health or life of the pregnant woman is in danger, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Ukrainian women, who have found refuge in this neighboring country and wish to terminate their pregnancy, must therefore often turn to an international abortion aid organization.

Between 1uh On March 19 and April 19, the international organization Abortion Without Borders received 267 calls from people from Ukraine asking for help with abortion. The print Mara Clarke, founder and director of the UK Abortion Support Network. Her organization helps people who want to have abortions in a dozen countries, including Poland, Ireland, Romania, Hungary, France, Spain, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

A risky help

As refugees started crossing the border into Poland, international abortion aid organizations mobilized. They have prepared medical abortion pills, a safe way to terminate pregnancy for up to 12 weeks, and have attached instructions in Ukrainian and Russian on how to take them correctly.

But how to send the pills to refugees fleeing the conflict if they don’t have an address? This is one of the challenges faced by organizations, as any person or doctor who helps pregnant women have an illegal abortion in Poland faces up to three years in prison.


Mara Clarke, founder and director of the UK abortion support network

“If I host a refugee and let her use my address to order pills, am I criminally liable? If I take you to a clinic? What if I give you the money for the bus to an abortion clinic? “Says M.myself Clarke. All of his questions remain unanswered and concern the abortion aid organizations.

Thanks to the work of the rescuers and their partners in Poland, most of the 267 Ukrainian women were able to safely abort with abortion pills.

“Other women, whose pregnancies are more advanced, have been referred to abortion clinics in the Netherlands and England,” said the international organization Women Help Women (WHW), dedicated to making abortion accessible.

However, women who remained in Ukraine are not excluded, assures the WHW organization. “We are doing our best to help all Ukrainian women with unwanted pregnancies to leave Ukraine and are working with feminist organizations in Ukraine to provide access to emergency contraception and safe abortion pills to those still in the country. “he said by email to The print.

The complex case of rape

The challenge is equally great for Ukrainian women who became pregnant after being raped by Russian soldiers. “We are sure that there is a small percentage of women fleeing Ukraine who are pregnant as a result of rape, by Russian soldiers, or by violent partners, or other men who are there, looking for vulnerable refugees. “says SM.myself Clarke.

However, the number of victims remains difficult to quantify.

We do not ask our interlocutors how they got pregnant or why they want to have an abortion. For us, every woman who needs an abortion and asks for our help will receive our help.

Mara Clarke, founder and director of the Abortion Support Network

Although abortion is legal in Poland in case of rape, it is very difficult to get one. “The trial is incredibly traumatic and includes obtaining a certificate from a prosecutor to prove that a rape has occurred. This procedure is incredibly difficult for people residing in Poland, and even more so for refugees, “says the founder of the Abortion Support Network.

The organizations will be busy in the coming weeks. Stakeholders fear that the number of people in need of subsequent abortions will increase. “We expect the numbers to skyrocket as more people cross borders, settle down and discover pregnancies,” said Ms.myself Clarke.

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