Poland's president vetoes law on free access to morning-after pill for ages 15 and above

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — 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. Duda said he was concerned about the health of minors and heeding the voices of parents.

A statement by Duda’s office said 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.

It said that no convincing arguments were made during the public debate that would justify free access to the pill for girls under the age of 18.

Last month, parliament approved the law, but it still needed Duda's approval to take effect. The new pro-European Union government had intended the law to be a first step toward a liberalization of Poland’s reproductive regulations, which are among Europe’s most restrictive and were inherited from the previous, conservative government.

Duda approved those decisions, which 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.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk commented, saying on X, formerly Twitter, that Duda “missed an opportunity to be on the women's side. We are implementing plan B."

Health Minister Izabela Leszczyna said that within “Plan B,” a directive will be issued allowing pharmacists to issue the needed prescriptions. The plan will be submitted for public discussion before implementation.

Poland's minister for equality who fights against various forms of discrimination, Katarzyna Kotula, said on X that “the morning-after pill will be available, regardless of what is the opinion of the president, who bases his decision on superstition rather than on medical knowledge.”

Abortion in Poland, a predominantly Roman 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.