WARSAW, Poland — A Polish court on Wednesday ordered a Roman Catholic magazine to pay a fine and apologize to a woman for likening her to a killer for wanting an abortion and equating the practice with Nazi crimes.
Judge Ewa Solecka ruled Wednesday that Catholics are free to express their moral disapproval of abortion – and even call it murder – but in a general way that stops short of vilifying an individual.
Solecka ordered the magazine, Gosc Niedzielny, which is published by the Katowice archdiocese, to pay Alicja Tysiac 30,000 zlotys (nearly $11,000) and issue her a written apology.
Solecka said the magazine's language was "particularly contemptuous" of Tysiac.
It is the latest episode in an ongoing public debate over abortion in Poland, a mainly Roman Catholic country where it is illegal in most cases.
Tysiac has become a symbol for the abortion rights movement because she challenged Poland's ban on abortion with the European Court of Human Rights. In 2007, that court ordered Poland to pay her damages of euro25,000 (nearly $37,000) because doctors refused to let her terminate her pregnancy despite serious risk to her eyesight.
After giving birth, her eyesight deteriorated considerably due to a retinal hemorrhage and doctors declared her significantly disabled.
Following the ruling, the editor of Gosc Niedzielny (Sunday Visitor), Rev. Marek Gancarczyk, wrote: "We live in a world where a mother receives an award for very much wanting to kill her child, but not being allowed to do so."
Gancarczyk compared abortion to the ghastly medical experiments performed at Auschwitz by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele and others. "They had become accustomed to the murders being carried out behind the fence of the camp. And what is the case today? Different, but just as terrible," he wrote.
The magazine denounced Wednesday's ruling as an infringement on freedom of speech and said it planned an appeal.
Abortions were easily available under communism but with the transformation to democracy the once-marginalized Catholic church regained significant influence. Today Poland allows the termination of a pregnancy until the 12th week but only if the mother's life is in danger, the fetus is irreparably damaged or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.