A Near Total Ban On Abortions In Poland Has Been Delayed Following Mass Protests

Here's what you need to know about the protests against changes to Poland's abortion laws.

Poland abortion law

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

A policy following a high court ruling that would’ve seen a near-total ban on abortions in Poland has been delayed, after almost two weeks of protests.

Women and groups like the Poland’s Women’s Strike initiative had organised nine days of protests against the ruling, culminating in a huge march in Warsaw this weekend, which some estimated was attended by 100,000 people.

Today (Tuesday) a government official said leaders were taking time to debate the ruling and find a solution.

People were motivated to protest and ignore strict coronavirus rules banning gatherings of more than five, after Poland’s constitutional court said on October 22 that abortions in cases of severe foetal abnormalities are unconstitutional.

Poland already has extremely strict abortion laws, the strictest in Europe, where abortions are banned unless conception is the result of rape of incest, the pregnancy puts the mother’s life at risk, or there are foetal deformities.

The majority of abortions carried out in the country are for foetal deformities so the ruling would see a near-total ban on abortions for Polish women.

Far-right activists and football hooligans attempted to stage counter protests at the weekend, meaning a large police presence – 12 people were arrested. There have been cases of priests and church services being confronted. But on the whole protests in Poland have been passed peacefully, with reports saying there has been music, dancing and men showing solidarity.

Many women have worn a red lightning bolt on their masks, clothes and faces, which has come to represent the movement.

The marches had been threatened with criminal charges because of the coronavirus threat, but Klementyna Suchanow, one of the key organizers with the Poland’s Women’s Strike initiative, told AP: ‘This is about the freedom and dignity of people… The will of people to protest should be a lesson for anyone who wants to impose authoritarian ways.’

Before this movement through the courts, the government had tried to ban all abortion in 2016 and 2017, prompting huge street protests, before backing down.

Speaking about today’s decision to delay the ruling taking effect, Michał Dworczyk, the head of the prime minister’s office, said: ‘There is a discussion going on, and it would be good to take some time for dialogue and for finding a new position in this situation that is difficult and stirs high emotions.’

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