Thursday, 23 June 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
100. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update to the Houses of the Oireachtas on any engagement he has had with the European Union or the Polish Government on the ban on abortion in Poland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33165/22]
Has the Minister had any engagement with his Polish counterpart or the European Union on the current banning of abortion in Poland? This is in the context of Ukrainian women coming into Poland and being refused abortions when they have been raped by Russian soldiers.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 142 together.
I thank the Deputy for raising this sensitive and important issue.
Recent changes to the abortion laws in Poland are clearly of great concern to many people in Poland and the EU more generally. Ireland has its own recent experience of these issues and we have seen major changes with regard to reproductive health rights in recent years, and they are very welcome. Our experience in Ireland in achieving broad consensus in this area is something we are proud of and always willing to engage with others on.
The Government engages regularly with our Polish and EU counterparts at ministerial level and official level, as well as with civil society and other actors. Ireland will continue to engage across a broad range of issues, including issues pertaining to the protection of women's sexual and reproductive health and rights and issues of gender equality.
It is worth noting that the Taoiseach has recently given a commitment in the House to raise with Poland's Government the issue of access to sexual and reproductive health services specifically with respect to Ukrainian women in Poland who may have been victims of sexual violence in the context of Russia's aggression and invasion of Ukraine. The Irish Embassy in Poland engages continually with Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a wide range of issues. I believe that there are over 3 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland right now, many of whom are women and children, and this is obviously an issue about which there is concern. The way in which these issues are raised is important in terms of the response that we are likely to get.
The Polish people and Europe in general have shown amazing solidarity with Ukrainians who are fleeing their own country in the face of absolute barbarity by the Russian Federation. I am aware that there is an ongoing debate in Poland, which will be debated in the Polish Parliament as of today, in respect of the lifting of the ban on abortions, not only for Polish women but for anybody fleeing the situation in Ukraine. The rape of women as a weapon of war is the most heinous of crimes and I highlight the situation where women present themselves in Poland but cannot gain access to having an abortion, having been raped in that situation.
I urge the Minister to highlight this terrible situation in Poland at European level and with his counterpart in Poland.
I first thank the Deputy for raising this issue and, in particular, for the way in which he done so because he has been sensitive to the issue here.
I have been to Warsaw and have visited the largest Ukrainian refugee hub, if one wants to call it that, just outside Warsaw. There are about 7,000 Ukrainian people there. Approximately 2,000 come and go every day. It is just extraordinary that this is a reality on the Continent of Europe today, where close on 6 million people have had to flee their own country, 36,000 of whom have come to Ireland. We all have an obligation to look after their well-being, whether that is housing, healthcare, reproductive rights or education.
Poland has been extraordinary in its solidarity in accommodating an enormous number of people who are fleeing conflict, violence and brutality. In many ways, Poland is at the centre of this conflict. We need to raise these issues with sensitivity but we also need to have these conversations to raise the concerns which many women, not only Ukrainian women but Polish women as well, have on sexual and reproductive rights and supports. Ultimately, this is a question for the Polish Parliament and authorities to make decisions upon but, certainly, the Irish Government's views are very clear on this and we will make those views known.