A drone will fly across the German-Polish border on Saturday to bring medical abortion pills to as many as five Polish women, who otherwise don't have access to abortion.
Abortion has been basically illegal in Poland since 1993, but Dutch abortion advocacy group Women on Waves is betting on a legal loophole which founder Rebecca Gomperts says legitimately lets the group fly abortion pills in by unmanned aircraft.
"Unmanned" is is the key. If you drove the pills across the border, or you carried in them your suitcase, you could be prosecuted under Polish law for helping someone get an abortion, Gomperts explained. "But because the drone is being flown in from Germany, there's [technically] nobody delivering it," Gomperts said.
Poland's law allows abortions only in cases where the health or life of the mother is at risk. Even then, Gomperts said, providers can be reluctant to provide the service.
Gomperts said they've been looking at using drones and other technology in this way for awhile, but it's only in the last year that the batteries of drones have had a life long enough to plan a mission.
A "medical abortion" has about the same effects on the body as a spontaneous miscarriage and can be completed easily with instructions by a woman on her own, according to Women on the Waves. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls the procedure "safe and effective." Medical abortion can be induced in pregnancies up to 9 weeks by taking a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. The pills are both on the WHO's list of essential medicines, but they aren't legally available in Poland.
There are less than 1,000 abortions annually in Poland, by official statistics, but Women on the Waves estimates that there may be as many as 200,000 illegal abortions conducted there, for around $3000.
A BuzzFeed/Ipsos poll from May found that nearly a third of Polish people support unrestricted abortion.
Abortion is freely available in most of the rest of the European Union, and Gomperts said Polish women of with money can and do travel to other countries to access abortion.
"It's a new social injustice because women with money can easily travel to Germany or Netherlands or any other country, or pay a doctor the two or three thousand euros an abortion cost," Gomperts said. 'It's women without financial means that are bearing the consequences of the restrictive laws."
The drone made a successful trip across the Oder river on Saturday, landing in Slubice, Poland.
German police on Saturday tried to interfere with the flight, Women on Waves said in a statement. The police confiscated drone controllers and iPads and will press charges "but it is totally unclear on what grounds," the statement said.
Two Polish women received and took the pills, the statement said.
The drone recorded its flight. Takeoff from Germany is at 0:49 and landing in Poland begins at 1:29.
(Nope, it's not you — the video has no sound.)