The EU versus individual countries

This is the story:

The European Court of Human Rights has awarded a Polish woman 25,000 euros ($33,000; £16,000) in damages after she was refused an abortion.

Alicja Tysiac’s eyesight worsened drastically after she had her third baby and she fears she may go blind.

The 35-year-old mother was refused an abortion despite warnings that having a baby could make her go blind.

In staunchly Catholic Poland, abortion is illegal unless the health of the mother or unborn child is at risk.

The Strasbourg court ruled that the mother of three’s human rights had been violated when she was denied an abortion on therapeutic grounds.

When Alicja Tysiac became pregnant in February 2000, three eye specialists told her having another baby could put her eyesight at serious risk.But neither the specialists nor her GP would authorise an abortion.

After giving birth later that year, Ms Tysiac suffered a retinal haemorrhage and feared she may go blind.

She now wears glasses with thick powerful lenses but she cannot see objects more than a metre and a half (5ft) away.

As a disabled single mother, she struggles to raise her three children on her meagre state pension.

There’s so much here that’s either not said or that I don’t understand. Does anyone have answers to the following questions?

1. Who pays the 25,000 euros?

2. If it’s Poland that pays, is it being sanctioned for following its own laws?

3. In the part of the article I didn’t quote above, we learn that Poland actually intends to stiffen its abortion laws. What kind of federalism is this that doesn’t overturn a member country’s law, but simply imposes fines against the country for following its own laws? Since this seems to be a weird, punitive kind of federalism, will it last?

4. Is the problem that the EU feels Poland didn’t follow its own laws? That is, does Poland interpret “risk to the mother” in a way that doesn’t include blindness, but only includes the risk of death? If a country interprets its own laws one way, and the EU another, which should trump?

5. And lastly, because it might help answer some other questions, where has the baby’s father been in all this? Buried in the article is the fact that Ms. Tysiac is single, and already had two children when she became pregnant with a third.

As you can see, I’m very ignorant about the way this situation works. Do any of you have answers about the intersection between national laws and EU rulings?

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  • JJ

    No, but they haven’t drawn any clear lines either. I agree with you, though: it seems as though about half the story is missing.