Emergency Contraception under threat in Poland

Our European Consortium listserv has seen a lot of traffic on a recent issue in Poland, and we wanted to provide our wider community with a summary of what is going on:

  1. Until 2015, both forms of emergency contraceptive pills were available in Poland only with a prescription from a physician. Prescriptions may not be written to those under 18 without parental consent.
  2. A decision was made by the European Commission in 2015 to allow ellaOne (a form of emergency contraceptive pill made with the active ingredient Ulipristal Acetate) to be sold without a prescription. In theory, this European-wide decision should apply to all members of the European Union.
  3. From 2015 until now, UPA EC has been available behind the counter from pharmacies for young women and girls aged 15 years and older. This means that UPA EC is available without a prescription but is not on the shelves and needs to be requested in order to purchase. The older form of ECP, LNG EC, remains available only by prescription.
  4. Legislators in Poland recently decided to go against the European Commission and introduced a bill to again require ellaOne be again sold with a prescription. This bill passed and has now been submitted to the President for signature.
  5. Misinformation about how EC works seems to be common among Polish parliamentarians who supported this bill; this factsheet from ICEC explains the difference between emergency contraception and medical abortion (also available in French and Spanish).
  6. The sooner emergency contraception is taken, the more effective it is. Requiring women to visit a doctor to seek a prescription before they access it will likely delay access and add cost.

Please see statements from Astra Network, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.