The Polish parliament debates outlawing abortions carried out due to foetal damage, which account for over 95% of all legally performed abortions in the country. The parliamentary Commission of Justice and Human Rights has already approved the draft legislation, under the telling title of “Stop Abortion”, earlier this week. Representatives of pro-choice movements and Amnesty International, present during the meeting, were not granted the permission to take the floor. Instead, the commission gave an unlimited access to the floor to supporters of the bill: the Life and Family Foundation and the Ordo Iuris Institute.
Abortion law in Poland is already one of the most restrictive with regards to women’s reproductive rights. In fact, abortion isn’t legal in most cases, and there are currently only three exceptions. These are, firstly, if women’s health or life is in danger. Secondly, abortion can be performed if there is a severe and irreversible damage to the foetus. Lastly, women are allowed to opt for abortion in cases of rape or incest. Consequently, even though official statistics register about 1,000 abortions annually, non-governmental organisations estimate that each year about 150,000 Polish women terminate pregnancies illegally.
The future of the “Stop Abortion” bill is unclear. Although a vast majority of the society stands against further restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, the ruling far-right Law and Justice party (PiS), led by authoritarian-minded Jarosław Kaczyński, has showed a limited interest in keeping the country on the side of rule of law, respecting human rights, or even listening to its constituency. In turn, PiS can still count on the support of Catholic Church, whose position – in this predominantly Roman Catholic country – should not be underestimated. For instance, since 2014 over 4,000 medical practitioners in Poland have signed the Declaration of Faith that recognises “the primacy of God’s laws over human laws.” The Declaration, which includes the signature of the current health minister Łukasz Szumowski, proclaims that, “if a person acts by their own will to negatively alter conception and bring about death, then he or she not only violates the basic commandments of the Decalogue, committing acts such as abortion, euthanasia, contraception, artificial insemination, and/or in vitro fertilisation, but rejects The Creator as well.”
So, once again Polish women take to the streets to demand reproductive rights. But they are hopeful. In October 2016, Poles protested under a common slogan of Black Protest (CzarnyProtest), wearing clothes of this colour as a sign of mourning for their reproductive rights. After thousands of Polish women joined the national strike to oppose a bill proposing a blanket ban on abortion, the government eventually stepped back.
Today’s protest met with support of pro-choice and women’s rights organizations from across the globe. In a letter addressed to the Polish government, the signatories “call[ed] on Members of Poland’s Parliament to listen to the voices of women across Poland and to reject this regressive legislative proposal and protect women’s health and human rights.”
Read the full letter below:Joint-statement-Poland-abortion-ban-March-2018