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Law easing ‘morning after’ pill access in Poland vetoed

Poland’s conservative President Andrzej Duda has vetoed a bill to ease women’s access to the “morning after” contraceptive pill, sparking outrage among left-wing and liberal politicians.

Women’s rights are high on the political agenda, with some Poles frustrated that liberal parties in the coalition government in power since December are slow at implementing their pledge to soften a near-total ban on abortion.

Majority Catholic Poland is one of only two countries in the 27-nation European Union where women require a prescription to buy emergency contraceptive pills.

The new legislation would have made them available without prescription for people over 15, reversing a restriction introduced in 2017 by the former government of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, of which Mr Duda is an ally.

“The President … could not accept legal solutions enabling children under 18 years of age to have access to medicinal products for use in contraception without medical supervision and bypassing the role and responsibility of parents,” a statement from his office said.

It added, however, that he would be open to making the “morning after” pill available without prescription to adult women.

MPs from the New Left, which is part of the broad pro-European coalition government, reacted with fury.

“Superstitions and conservative ideology won over science and women’s rights. But just for a moment,” legislator Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus wrote on social media.

“As the Left, we promised, among other things, the day after pill to Poles. We will deliver anyway.”

Health Minister Izabela Leszczyna said this week that if Mr Duda vetoes the law, the government will allow prescriptions to be issued by pharmacists when selling the pill, rather than requiring women to have a medical appointment as currently.

The coalition government has split between left-leaning and liberal MPs and more conservative MPs on abortion.

However, it has already reinstated budgetary funding for invitro fertilisation procedures.

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