In 2016, the Polish government announced a significant restriction on the right to abortion, further limiting access that was already very restricted. This sparked a huge wave of pro-choice protests. Four women who were already involved in abortion activism joined forces and formed the Abortion Dream Team. “We initially used that name as a joke on social media, but a journalist picked it up, it gained attention, and we’ve been calling ourselves that ever since,” says Justyna Wydrzyńska. Justyna, along with Natalia Broniarczyk and Kinga Jelińska, still form part of the core team of the action group. The Abortion Dream Team (ADT) provides women with information about the possibility of safely inducing an abortion at home and works to broaden the narrow and suffocating discourse about abortion, which is urgently needed. Since 2021, Polish law allows abortion only if a woman’s life is in danger or if her pregnancy is the result of rape. Natalia: “In 2016, we thought we were engaging in a temporary intervention. But unintentionally, we became an important player in the Polish abortion movement. The need for practical abortion assistance continues to grow, because a ban never reduces the number of abortions.”  

The Abortion Dream Team facilitates access to safe and affordable abortion by educating women about the use of abortion pills. Kinga explains, “Most people are unaware of the possibility of initiating a home abortion with misoprostol. There is also a lot of misinformation in feminist circles, despite the World Health Organization long recognising abortion pills as a safe and effective method to end unwanted pregnancies.” The group offers an abortion hotline and provides social media counseling on abortion with the help of a growing team of volunteers . The activists themselves travel throughout Poland to train local feminists to provide education on the ground. The Abortion Dream Team also connects individuals accused of violating anti-abortion laws with legal support.  

In addition to practical help to improve abortion access, the group aims to change the public discourse about abortion. Natalia: “Our own frustration with how people talked about abortion was actually another trigger for us to start our initiative. Abortion is always portrayed as something sad or dramatic, but our own abortion experiences were very different.” The team intitially used the rallying cry ‘Abortion is okay’, which has become a popular mainstream slogan. Natalia adds, “We’ve also released a short guide for journalists with tips on using non-stigmatising language. For example, one piece of advice we give is not to use the Polish expression to ‘commit an abortion’, because tit implies that it is a crime. Additionally, we urge the media to centre women’s experiences in their reporting. For most women, abortion is not a negative experience, but rather a source of relief, accompanied by a whole range of feelings from sadness to euphoria.” Justyna emphasises, “The conservative government always frames it in terms of morality and punishment… that is purely a political power game. The Polish population does not want abortion to be banned. In fact, as a response to the government’s increasingly conservative position, there has been a clear surge in support for -abortion and queer rights.”  

Despite their high visibility and popularity, the Abortion Dream Team intends to remain a small and informal collective. Kinga explains, ‘We don’t want to become a large organisation, but rather serves as a thorn in the side and create a new wave of abortion activism. For instance, we intitiated an ‘abortion summer camp’ to bring activists from different movements together to devise joint strategies. We’re really pleased that that initiative has been picked up and is being continued by others.”  

The support from Mama Cash makes it possible to remain flexible and respond to the current Polish context as needed. Kinga states, “Mama Cash is unique in the donor landscape with its commitment to core funding and the message that we can use the money as we see fit. This also strengthens our approach to other funders. We no longer bend over backwards to meet their criteria. Our energy and time are too precious for that.” This is especially true now that Justyna has been charged by the Polish state for assisting in abortion. Justyna asserts, “The state’s objective is clear: to increase pressure on activists to remain silent. But we won’t do that. Yes, the repressive tactics cause stress and wear us down, so more than ever we must be mindful of how we use our energy and set priorities. However the Polish people are on our side and are questioning whether this trial is fair. That gives us strength! We recognise this judicial harassment as a form of gender-based violence, and we will continue to fight it and tell our story.”