Revisiting Polish abortion law: doctors and institutions in a restrictive regime

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This article examines the motivations of doctors operating in restrictive abortion regimes, and it takes Poland as a case study. It places in the foreground institutional and intra-professional factors that determine abortion healthcare, which to date have been accorded little attention. The article compares the impact that criminal, professional, and social sanctions have upon the provision of abortion services. In so doing, its purpose is to refocus debate in this area. It aims to move the emphasis away from legal and political factors, including the criminalisation of abortion, and to place it on medical agency. The Polish case study is examined in order to test out, in the context of a late-transitional polity, the sustainability of neo-institutionalist approaches to the study of law and organisations and the sociology of professions. The analysis is particularly important and urgent in light of the recent retrenchment of reproductive rights in Poland, and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Early online date2 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Abortion law
  • Poland
  • law and organisation studies
  • medical autonomy
  • medical profession
  • neo-institutionalism
  • reproductive rights
  • transitional society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • Law


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