Polish parliament approves prescription-free access to morning-after pill

A bill restoring prescription-free access to the so-called morning-after pill, a form of emergency contraception, has been passed by the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament.

Under the proposed regulations, the contraceptive will be available over the counter to those aged at least 15 (Poland’s age of sexual consent) for the first time since 2017, when the conservative former ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), introduced the requirement to obtain a prescription from a doctor.

That made Poland one of only two EU countries, alongside Hungary, with such a requirement. Restoring prescription-free access to the morning-after pill was one of the electoral promises made by the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), the largest group in the new ruling coalition that took power in December.

The bill now passes to the upper-house Senate, where the government also has a majority. However, to become law it must also be signed by President Andrzej Duda, a conservative and PiS ally. He could instead decide to veto it.

❗️Sejm uchwalił ustawę o zmianie ustawy – Prawo farmaceutyczne. Antykoncepcja awaryjna, tzw. tabletka „dzień po” będzie dostępna bez recepty dla osób powyżej 15 lat.#Sejm pic.twitter.com/3WSTFuHaJK

— Sejm RP🇵🇱 (@KancelariaSejmu) February 22, 2024

The government first approved the bill on 25 January, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk noting at the time that the pill “prevents conception from taking place so it is not an early abortion pill”. However, many conservatives, as well as the Catholic church, argue that the morning-after pill can have an abortifacient effect.

The bill was today approved by the Sejm, with 224 votes in favour from parties in the ruling coalition: 143 from KO, 31 from the centrist Poland 2050 (Polska 2050), 26 from The Left (Lewica) and 21 from the centre-right Polish People’s Party (PSL).

Seven PSL MPs were among the 196 who voted against the bill, along with 171 from PiS, 17 from the far-right Confederation (Konfederacja) and two from small right-wing group Kukiz’15.

Tabletka „dzień po” bez recepty. Po ciemnogrodzie który zafundował PiS, Polska zaczyna znów szanować Polki i nasze prawa.

— Barbara Nowacka (@barbaraanowacka) February 22, 2024

“After the darkness that the Law and Justice party has wrought, Poland is beginning to respect Polish women and our rights again,” wrote education minister Barbara Nowacka of KO after the vote.

For the past five years, Poland has been ranked as the worst country in Europe for contraception policies by the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

However, it remains possible President Duda will veto the proposed law. When asked about the issue by Polsat, Duda called the pill “a hormonal bomb” and said that the pill “is not unavailable in Poland now”.

Meanwhile, presidential minister Małgorzata Paprocka told broadcaster Polskie Radio that the age limit defined in the legislation “raises doubts”.

Poland has been ranked as the worst country in Europe for contraception https://t.co/qfXBsgCuTt

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 10, 2022

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Main image credit: Tbel Abuseridze / Unsplash 

Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.

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