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Drones deliver abortion pills to women in Poland

Drones have been used to deliver abortion drugs to women in Poland in a protest against Poland's pregnancy termination laws.

The Abortion Drone awaiting takeoff. Women on Waves

A Dutch women's advocacy group has used a quadcopter they dubbed the Abortion Drone to deliver pregnancy termination drugs to women in Poland.

The activist group Women on Waves piloted the drone from Frankfurt, Germany, across the Oder river and delivered the drugs safely to two Polish women in Słubice, accompanied by members of Polish women's advocacy group Feminoteka. The pills, provided by a Dutch gynaecologist, contained the abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol.

The move, the women's groups said, was an act of protest designed to draw attention to laws in Poland that prohibit women from terminating pregnancies except under specific circumstances.

It is illegal in Poland for a woman to have a foetus aborted except in cases of rape or incest, in which case the foetus must be aborted within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; or in cases of irreversible malformation or threat to the mother's life, in which case the foetus must be aborted within 24 weeks.

The Polish women receiving the shipment of pills. Women on Waves

This leaves Polish women seeking underground abortions that may put their lives at risk. Although only a few hundred abortions are officially recorded each year, following the institution of the laws in 1993, the World Health Organisation estimates put the number at at least 30 percent of all pregnancies.

A German police officer confiscates the drone controller. Women on Waves

Aside from the cost -- which can be thousands of euros -- seeking underground abortions poses an enormous risk to women's health, which could be decreased with access to legal reproductive control options.

"[The Abortion Drone is] a symbolic operation designed to show that just a few kilometres (between the take-off and the landing site) can be a gulf in terms of respect for women's rights, reproductive rights which are human rights," Feminoteka's Jula Gaweda told AFP.

The groups chose drone delivery because it is not illegal in the area they flew. The flight zone was not controlled airspace, and the drone, which weighed less than five kilograms, was not being used for commercial purposes, so authorisation was not required under either Polish or German law.

Although the flight was successful, police confiscated items and will be attempting to press charges, Women on Waves said in a press release.

"The German police confiscated the drone controllers and personal iPads. They threatened that there will be charges but it is totally unclear on what grounds," Women on Waves said.

"The German Police already admitted that flying the drone over the border was not illegal but now want to test a violation of the Arzneimittelgesetz (medicines law). However, as required by law, the medicines were provided on prescription by a doctor and both Poland and Germany are part of Schengen [26 European countries that have abolished border restrictions]."

Women in Poland are not subject to penalties for illegal abortion, and nor is it illegal for Women on Waves to distribute the pills. However, illegal abortion practitioners or doctors prescribing illegal abortion pills can face up to two years imprisonment.