School of Geography

Geography Lunchtime Research Seminars: Dr Sydney Calkin

5 February 2020

Time: 1:00 - 2:00pm
Speaker: Dr Sydney Calkin
Venue: City Centre Seminar Room (Bancroft 2.07)

Dr Sydney Calkin, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and Lecturer in Human Geography
Abortion access pathways in post-socialist Poland: How and why are they changing? 

When Poland passed an extremely restrictive anti-abortion law in 1993, it abruptly ended decades of legal abortion there. It also inadvertently produced a robust market in clandestine abortion, because many doctors continued to provide abortion services that had become illegal almost overnight, albeit in the private market and for a high price (Chelstowska 2015).  Twenty-five years later, this ‘whitecoat underground’ has been diminished as doctors retire and state crackdowns create a greater fear of criminalization. Nonetheless, there are between 50,000 and 200,000 illegal abortions among Polish women every year (Hussein et al. 2018). How has clandestine abortion access changed and what are the main factors that determine access pathways? State institutions refuse to collect data on this question and academic scholarship on the Polish pro-choice movement largely focuses on social movement mobilization (e.g. Korolczuk 2017; Krol and Pustulka 2018; Mishtal 2018). This paper addresses this gap by mapping the two Polish abortion-access pathways that have emerged during the intervening decades: first, abortion travel abroad to bordering states like Germany and Slovakia; second, self-managed abortion using imported pills purchased online. This paper draws on interviews with activists and NGOs in Poland and Germany, as well as analysis of web resources from clinics (legal and illegal) and pill networks. It builds on the conceptual framework of ‘abortion geographies’ that I have developed in previous work on the Irish/ Northern Irish case. The paper uses this framework to map the changing spatiality of abortion access in Poland and to theorize the primary political, economic and social forces that shape clandestine access pathways today.