My Choice Anyway


2017 - Ongoing

Poland; Philippines; Ireland

Although safe ways to terminate pregnancy do exist, according to the World Health Organization, around the world about 164 women die daily due to unsafe abortions.

Bodily integrity understood as personal autonomy and self-determination of human beings on their own bodies is one of the fundamental human rights. Yet, all over the world, women are denied those rights by being denied access to contraceptives and safe abortion. The issue is highly politicized and remains a question of power over who has the right to decide on women's fertility.

For me, a young woman, lucky enough to never suffer because of my sex, it has become almost a moral imperative to learn about the issue and then tell the stories of those, who are too afraid or denied the possibility to speak for themselves.

I started the project in my home country, Poland, where the limitation or liberalization of the law on abortion has been discussed for many years, but since 2016 the scale became much bigger following the unprecedented protests in the country where more than 150 thousand people went out on the streets to protest the additional restriction of law. I then continued in the Philippines and Ireland to show the problem on the bigger scale.

Photographic encounters with people who have experience of abortion are a common thread of the project. I take their portraits to amplify their voices, to make them understood, to give faces to the numbers and to create an emotional bond between them and the viewers.

Statistically, 1 in 3 women have aborted at least once in their life. The problem of abortion concerns everyone, regardless of race, religion, social status or gender, because all women who went through abortion are also sisters, daughters, mothers and partners of men. Abortion is also an ultimate consequence of lack of access to contraception, lack of sex education, poverty, sexual violence and religion, which is not considered as personal faith, but as political power. Various studies have shown that restrictive laws do not prevent abortion itself, but rather prevent access to safe procedures and endanger especially poor women who are already extremely vulnerable.

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  • Kaja (33) comes from a pious catholic family. For several years she has been treated for gynecological problems, she underwent 3 operations on her right ovary and had three miscarriages. Her last pregnancy was endangered from the beginning. The medication prescribed by her gynecologist to support the pregnancy showed serious side effects – Kaja fainted twice at work. Her doctor refused to see her and over the phone told her that if she decides to stop the treatment, it is as if she was killing her baby. Already heavily bleeding from miscarriage, she drove 300 km to the nearest clinic in Germany. Gdansk, February 2017

  • Most often women come to the clinic in Germany accompanied by their spouses. In Poland a woman who has aborted is not penalized, but all those who help her to abort risk up to 3 years in prison. Although in reality, since the implementation of the law 24 years ago, nobody was ever penalized, a fear of being found is very high. Prenzlau, Germany, March 2017

  • In the operating room Polish gynecologist and the head of the gynecology department in the hospital, Dr. Rudzinski who lived in Germany for the past 30 years, is assisted by an anesthetist (also Polish) and three or four nurses. Dr. Rudzinski openly helps Polish women with access to abortion in the clinic. Even during the operation, he receives calls from patients wanting to make an appointment for the following weeks. Prenzlau, Germany, March 2017

  • Iza (23) was drugged and raped during a party in her village. She did not remember anything and a month and a half later found out she was pregnant. Despite her mother's persuasions, she was determined not to keep the child, she wanted a different life for herself. She did not make an appointment and she has just arrived to the clinic hoping to find a solution. Straight after the abortion procedure she went to pray in a church nearby. Prenzlau, Germany, March 2017

  • Karolina (28) comes from a family where she was beaten and maltreated when she got pregnant with her oldest daughter at the age of 14. Her second son, now 5 years old, was born a few years later with Asperger syndrome considered as autism spectrum disorder due to a cytomegalovirus caught by Karolina during her stay in a hospital with her older daughter. When 4 years ago she got pregnant again, together with her husband they knew they would be unable to cater for a third child. They sold their wedding rings to pay for abortion pills ordered over the Internet and Karolina took the medicine in her family house while her children were playing downstairs. Trzebinia, January 2018

  • Anti-abortion movements and pro-life organizations are very visible in Poland. They use graphic images of dismembered fetuses in the visuals prepared for manifestations for total ban of abortion. A group of 15 men and 1 woman met in front of a liberal library. Inside a meeting educating women on various pharmacological abortion methods was organized in a semi-clandestine manner. Wroclaw, February 2017

  • According to its organizers, around 40,000 people have walked the streets of Dublin participating in the 6th and largest so far, annual March for Choice. Feminist and pro-choice organizations hope that this was also the last march as the country prepares for a referendum on access to abortion, which is scheduled for the first half of 2018. September 2017, Dublin, Ireland

  • Michele (35) together with her husband, traveled to Liverpool for an induced termination in June 2017. From the moment she found out about the fatal fetal abnormality, she had a feeling of losing her mind. She barely functioned and thought she had to suffer so that the baby would not. At the beginning, she hoped to undergo abortion in Ireland and only then she learned that under Irish jurisdiction it was impossible. The doctor promised to pray for her instead. When she called a clinic in Liverpool, she was suggested to travel by ferry and to carry an empty sports bag with her, so that after everything, she could put the coffin inside, cover it with ice and bring the baby’s body with her back to Ireland. Instead, Michel’s husband traveled to Liverpool once more to bring their baby’s urn, which is now standing on a little pink altar in their living room. August 2017, Dublin, Ireland

  • When Gaye and Gerry Edwards first pregnancy was diagnosed at the 12th week scan with anencephaly (a condition in which the child is developing without an important part of its skull and brain), they decided to go to Belfast for a termination. Their son, Joshua, was stillborn in Belfast, where in February 2001. His ashes were delivered by mail in a brown envelope a few weeks later. When Gaye saw a delivery truck in front of their house, she immediately started crying. For several months after their tragedy, Gaye did not leave the house and Gerry struggled with psychological trauma for several years. August 2017, Dublin suburbs, Ireland

  • Caroline and Michel traveled to Liverpool on the 1st of January 2018 for a termination of their 3rd pregnancy. A few weeks earlier they learned during a routine scan that there was no fluid around the featus and that their daughter was developing without kidneys. They considered themselves lucky to be able to openly talk about the situation to their friends and family and especially to be able to afford traveling to Liverpool for the procedure and for the cremation a few weeks later. As many other Irish couples, on their way back from the cremation they were stopped at the baggage control at the airport and had to explain the content of the urn that they were carrying in their luggage. What they believe, should be free and provided in their own country, cost them about 4000 euro, the amount that most Irish cannot afford. Dublin, August 2018

  • Performance artist and a feminist, Taryn De Vere is posing for a photo session before an annual March for Choice in Dublin. Dressed as a pro-choice princess she is distributing bodily autonomy cards which pretend to serve as a fairy godmother gift. She wants to raise awareness of lack of women’s rights in Ireland. September 2017, Dublin, Ireland

  • A street mural-portrait of Savita Halappanavar was painted in the center of Dublin at the day of Irish referendum. During the following days, people left flowers and notes of solidarity which were later digitalized and sent to Savita’s family in India. Savita died in 2012 after being refused induced abortion at the Galway University Hospital, where she arrived when she was already going through a miscarriage. May 2018, Dublin, Ireland

  • Dr. Jose Fabella Hospital in Manila is the main and biggest mother’s health medical facility in the country. A minimum of around 100 women give birth daily in the clinic. It is also one of a few facilities that agrees to treat patients with post abortion complications. Unless it is medically necessary, women are advised not to remain in the post-delivery ward of Fabella hospital longer than 24 hours. The hospital managed to cut down by half the number of daily deliveries concentrating mostly on complicated cases, but there is still no place for everyone. Sometimes even 4 women will share one bed and due to the lack of sufficient number of nurses or midwifes, more experienced mothers will advise newcomers on breastfeeding and caring for they newborns. Manila, Philippines, April 2017

  • According to the CIA World and the UNICEF Report on children poverty in the Philippines, the country has the highest fertility rate in East Asia. More than 40% of the population is under 18 years old. On average women have 2-3 kids more than they were initially planning for. In large families the eldest siblings drop out of school early in order to support the household income, while the youngest wait to get their education until their older brothers and sisters start to work and earn money. Especially in informal settlements or urban slums children are particularly vulnerable due to the living conditions, hygiene and illegal activities often present in this kind of areas. Metro Manila, Philippines, May 2017

  • Joanna (26) got pregnant at the age of 18 when she was still in college. She was dreaming of becoming a businesswoman and wanted to finish her studies before becoming a mother. Her mother also had an abortion before, so she knew where to ask for help. She is ashamed of what she did and afraid of God’s and people’s judgment. She doesn’t remember the pain of the procedure, but still after 8 years she thinks about what happened almost every day. Currently Joanna lives with her boyfriend and their 1-year-old son at her mother’s place in one of Manila’s poor squatters’ areas. She stopped working as an accountant after giving birth and is now selling clothes in her community through her Facebook page. Metro Manila, Philippines, May 2017

  • Elen (48) is 3 months pregnant. She came to the local hilot after taking a mixture of strong aspirin and coke that is locally known for causing miscarriages. Following the healer’s prescriptions, a few hours before the visit she drunk a bitter concoction made of plants, tree bark and local liquor that is supposed to conjure uterus cramps. The massage normally starts by pressing the stomach from the navel downwards to locate the fetus, which is squeezed and pressed in the direction of the cervix by strong deep moves afterwards. When blood is already in the patient’s cervix, the massage stops. Proper miscarriage happens usually around 24 hours later. Metro Manila, Philippines, May 2017

  • Cha (21) was 17 when she got pregnant during her first ever sexual intercourse. Even though her mother was already one of the community leaders involved in reproductive rights advocacy, Cha knew nothing about the use of contraceptives. She knew she did not want to keep the baby and asked her mother for help. Without telling the father or any of her siblings, she underwent an abortion in a clandestine clinic in Manila. There was no anesthesia provided and the nurse used a manual vacuum absorption method. Cha was deeply afraid of what would happen and if she would stay alive. During the whole procedure she was holding her mother’s hand and listening to her words “You can do it”, repeated over and over. Metro Manila, Philippines, April 2017

  • “Heaven for Angels” is a space in the Northern Cemetery of Manila dedicated for miscarried fetuses. It was financed by a former mayor of Manila City, Alfredo Lim. Another similar place located on the Southern Manila Cemetery was financed by Lito Atienza, also a former mayor of Manila who strongly opposed not only legal abortion, but has also, for more than 10 years, forbid any use of modern contraceptives, describing them as pesticides and poisonous to women’s body. Makati, Philippines, April 2017