I. The Circuit Court in Rzeszów (Poland), in the appellate review, on the 22nd of December acquitted Jacek Kotula and Przemysław Sycz, pro-life activists of the Fundation ‘Pro – Prawo do życia’ of the defamation charge of the “Pro-Familia” hospital in Rzeszów (no. II Ka 330/15).
Kotula and Sycz were prosecuted in private prosecution proceeding for defamation of the “Pro-Familia” hospital in Rzeszów. Activists organised series of pickets against (legal) abortion of defected unborn children and in favour of midwives’ conscientious objection. Demonstrators presented sizable banners with real-life photos of killed, unborn children in 22. and 24. week of pregnancy, in association with name of the hospital and personal data of doctors and managers of the clinic.
In the opinion of the court, organization of pickets and demonstrations against abortion – even in shocking or drastic form - is not illegal and falls under protection of freedom of speech guaranteed in the Polish Constitution 1997 and the European Convention of Human Rights. The hospital, which benefits from public funding, should consider the risk of opposition against abortion performed by its employees. The court referred to the European Court of Human Rights case-law, Handyside v. United Kingdom and Annen v. Germany cases.
II. The District Court in Grodzisk Mazowiecki (Poland) issued an acquittal verdict in the case of another pro-life activist of the polish pro-life Fundation ‘Pro – Prawo do życia’ Dawid Wachowiak (no. II W 1942/14). In 2014 Wachowiak organized open-air exhibition of banners with real-life photographs of aborted unborn children in 22. and 24. week of pregnancy, victims of abortion. County Guards, acting on orders of the County Secretary (high county official), seized the banners and accused Dawid Wachowiak of disorderly, insulting behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress in public. The District Court, after a year of trials, held that exhibition was legally organized and exhibition’s obvious legal aim was to draw attention to the moral aspects of abortion. Defendant exercised his freedom of speech and artistic freedom. In Court’s opinion declaring actions of Wachowiak a disorderly behaviour would lead to unacceptable outcomes, as all pro-life demonstrations showing real-life pictures of abortion would be prohibited. This chilling effect may infringe very foundations of the democratic participative society. In the proceeding no evidence was provided showing that the abortion exhibitions have a negative influence on children’s psyche. Court underlined that a large part of polish society identifies with views and opinions presented by pro-life activists.
III. Simultaneously, lawyers of Ordo Iuris Institute brought before the District Court in Grodzisk Mazowiecki a criminal case against the County Secretary, as the exhibition organized by Dawid Wachowiak was terminated and the banners seized by the County Guards acting on informal orders of the County Secretary. Ordo Iuris Lawyer Jerzy Ferenz, acting on behalf of an auxiliary prosecutor, supported the request for conviction. The County Secretary was accused and put on trial. The District Court in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, on the 11th of December 2015, convicted him to a fine. The Court held, that the administration officer abused his authority as the exhibition presented the real face of abortion and Wachowiak had a right to express his view about killing unborn children.
Jacek Kotula, Przemysław Sycz and Dawid Wachowiak were represented by attorney Jerzy Kwaśniewski, President of the Institute for Legal Culture Ordo Iuris.
In the case brought against the County Secretary, auxiliary prosecutor Dawid Wachowiak was represented by attorney Jerzy Ferenz, lawyer of the Legal Intervention Program of Ordo Iuris Institute.
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