Polish president vetoes bill to allow over-the-counter access to morning after pill

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda on Friday vetoed a law that would have allowed over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill for girls and women ages 15 and above, his office said. According to Duda’s office, the president sent the law back to the parliament, but was open to a debate on free access to the hormonal contraception pill for those aged 18 and above. The statement said that no convincing arguments were made during the public debate that would justify free access to the pill for girls under age 18. Last month, parliament approved the law, but it still needed Duda’s approval to take effect. The new government had intended the law to be a first step toward a liberalization of Poland’s reproductive regulations that are among Europe’s most restrictive. They were inherited from the previous conservative government whose decisions Duda approved. Those restrictive decisions drew massive street protests. Duda’s veto means that the pill, called ellaOne, which prevents pregnancy and is not an abortion pill, remains available only on prescription. Health Minister Izabela Leszczyna in reaction said that within a “Plan B” a directive will be issued allowing pharmacists to issue the needed prescriptions. The plan will be submitted for public discussion before implementation. Abortion in Poland, a predominantly Catholic country, is legal only when the pregnancy threatens a woman’s health or life, or results from rape. The strict law has had a chilling effect on Poland’s doctors and has led to a number of deaths of women with troubled pregnancies.