A new law in Poland restricts access to emergency contraception and will have a “catastrophic impact on rape survivors,” warned a leading human rights organisation.

Polish President Andrzej Duda on June 23 approved legislation that will end prescription-free access to the morning-after pill. The new law comes into effect next month.

“We consider it as another blow to women’s rights, and will affect teenagers and those in remote rural areas, and will have a particularly catastrophic impact on rape survivors,” said Draginja Nadazdin, director of Amnesty International in Poland, in a statement issued on June 25.

As reported by The Telegraph, critics say this could take too long to arrange a doctor’s appointment and lead to unwanted pregnancies, even in the case of rape, because the pill has to be taken as soon as possible.

Quick access to a doctor could be even harder for people in rural areas, and young girls in particular may baulk at seeing a physician owing to a sense of shame.

According to Health Minister Konstanty Radziwill, hormonal means of contraception were being abused and had harmful health effects.

By being forced to see a doctor, he said women will now “get advice on whether these substances negatively affect their health”.

He has also suggested the pill induced an early abortion.

Health experts, however, dismissed Radziwill’s claims, pointing out the morning-after pill prevents conception rather than causing an abortion, and that there is little or no scientific evidence indicating it had harmful and long-lasting side-effects.