Poland’s new digital health data system will allow government to track pregnancies

The country has one of the strictest abortion bans in Europe, raising fears about how the data could be used

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Poland will begin digitally tracking health data, including pregnancies, in a central patient database, sparking fears over how the data will be used, according to a report by The Associated Press.

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Poland has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe after the Conservative government extended the ban last year to cover almost all abortions except those resulting from assault or incest.

Critics of the new data collection ordinance say the government is trying to create a ‘pregnancy registry’ and have expressed concern that the data could be used to control and punish those who become pregnant, but don’t. never give birth.

When the order was proposed last December, a spokesperson said the change was part of a larger project within the EU, aimed at digitizing patient records that would have already existed on paper and allow processing across national borders, according to a report by The Guardian. .

More recently, a government spokesperson said only medical professionals will have access to the data. But activists and concerned citizens say there is no guarantee that medical professionals will not report changes in patients’ pregnancy status to authorities.

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“Being pregnant means the police can come to you at any time and prosecutors can come and ask you questions about your pregnancy,” Marta Lempart of Women’s Strike, a women’s rights group, told The Associated. Press.

Poland has a lower birth rate than the average for EU countries. To combat population decline, the Polish government last December proposed an “Institute of Family and Demography” to “educate citizens about the ‘vital role of the family in the social order’ and promote ‘cultural-social reproduction'”, according to The Guardian.

The Polish government has implemented policies to encourage the reproduction of Polish families since their election in 2015. Minister of Labour, Family and Social Policy Marlena Maląg said the policies aim to increase the rate Polish birth rate by favoring families, “not migration” according to Poland-focused information site Poland Notes.

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Government policies favoring reproduction, combined with a near total ban on abortion, and now increased monitoring of medical records, have raised concerns that “women face unprecedented levels of surveillance” in the country, writes AP.

It is possible for Poles to have an abortion if they travel to a neighboring country that allows them, such as Germany.

Poles can also order abortion pills, although it is illegal to help someone else access abortion pills. Activist Justyna Wydrzyńska is currently facing three years in prison for providing abortion pills to a woman victim of domestic violence, according to Amnesty International.

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