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President vetoes morning-after pill bill

Poland is one of two EU countries where women must present a prescription for emergency contraception. The Tusk government wants to change that, but conservative President Duda has vetoed the bill.

Poland's conservative President Andrzej Duda has stopped a law that would make the morning-after pill much easier to access. Duda vetoed the bill that would provide for over-the-counter access to the drug, his office said.

“The President could not accept legal solutions that allow children under 18 years of age to have access to contraceptive medicines without medical supervision and bypassing the role and responsibilities of parents,” the statement said. However, the Polish president added that he was open to making the drug freely available to adult women. The new law provides for over-the-counter access to the drug from the age of 15.

Tusk's government wants to ease restrictions

The parliament in Warsaw approved the proposed law at the end of February. In doing so, the MPs cleared the way for plans by Prime Minister Donald Tusk's pro-European government coalition to relax previous restrictions on the morning-after pill. Mainly Catholic Poland is one of only two countries in the 27 EU members where women need a prescription for the morning-after pill.

The previous prescription requirement was introduced by the right-wing nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which ruled from 2015 to December, as part of its conservative family policy. The government had expected Duda's veto and therefore announced in advance that it would be bypassed.

Ministry of Health wants to bypass Duda's veto

Representatives of the “New Left” criticized the president’s decision. “Superstition and conservative ideology have triumphed over science and women's rights. But only for a moment,” wrote MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus on X. They wanted to keep their promise regarding the morning-after pill.

Health Minister Izabela Leszczyna told radio station RMF FM that a regulation had been prepared allowing pharmacists to issue prescriptions for the pill. In order to prevent unwanted pregnancies, the drug should be made available in this way from May 1st. The Tusk government made a move in January to liberalize Poland's restrictive abortion law as a whole. Currently, abortions in Poland are only permitted in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother's life is in danger.

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