Poland to implement 'near-total ban' on abortions

Poland to implement ‘near-total ban’ on abortions with rape, incest or to save the mother’s life the only exemptions

  • ‘The ruling will be published today in the Journal of Laws,’ the government said 
  • The announcement on Wednesday is expected to spark major protests  
  • Abortion will be banned in except in the most exceptional circumstances

Poland will today implement a near-total ban on abortion following a ruling on the matter three months ago. 

‘The ruling will be published today in the Journal of Laws,’ the government information centre said on Twitter. 

Under the new legislation, abortions are only permitted in cases of rape and incest, and when the mother’s life or health is endangered.  

The announcement is expected to spark major protests.  

Polish protesters hold sparklers and a rainbow flag during anti-government protests in Warsaw, Poland, Sunday, December 13 

An October 22 ruling by the Polish constitutional court to ban abortions of foetuses with congenital defects, even when the foetus has no chance of survival at birth, sparked protests in December 2020 

In October, the Constitutional Court said terminating pregnancies due to foetal defects should be illegal, ruling against the main exception for legal abortions in the largely Roman Catholic country. 

Conservative values have taken a more prominent role in public life since the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party took power in 2015. 

Access to abortion has declined even without the legislative curbs as some doctors refuse to perform the procedure on religious grounds. 

Opponents of PiS have accused the party of influencing the court in its ruling, a charge the conservatives deny. 

Polish protesters attend an anti-government protest in Warsaw, Poland, on December 13 

Poland, a predominantly Catholic country, already has one of Europe’s most restrictive laws on abortion.

There are fewer than 2,000 legal abortions every year and women’s groups estimate that an additional 200,000 women abort either illegally or abroad.

‘No law-abiding government should respect this ruling,’ Borys Budka, leader of Poland’s largest opposition party, the centrist Civic Platform, told reporters.

The October 22 ruling by the Polish constitutional court to ban abortions of foetuses with congenital defects, even when the foetus has no chance of survival at birth, sparked major protests late last year.

Thousands marched in Warsaw and other Polish cities to protest the country’s right-wing government after a high court ruled to tighten the country’s already restrictive abortion law. 

Mass crowds – most of them women – also rallied in the cities of Gdansk, Krakow, Lodz, and Rzeszow, and in dozens of traditionally more conservative towns. 

Some of the protesters targeted Catholic churches across the country. Protesters, brandishing placards bearing expletives and others saying ‘I wish I could abort my government’, clashed with police and supporters of the ban outside a landmark church in central Warsaw in late October. 

Local media also ran pictures of graffiti on church walls in various cities and towns reading ‘Women’s hell’ – the main slogan of the protests. 

Many Poles accused the government of acting more and more like that authoritarian regime by disregarding the civil liberties of citizens. 

The weeks of protests morphed into the largest protest movement in Poland since communism fell three decades ago. 

A protester holds a sign that reads: ‘PisExit,’ with PiS being the acronym in Polish for the ruling right-wing party, Law and Justice, in Warsaw on December 13, 2020 

Many carried European Union and rainbow flags to show their support for liberal Western values. One protesters was dressed as a human-sized tear gas canister. 

Due to a ban on gatherings of more than five people amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the marches in December were organised as ‘spontaneous walks’ and the slogan was: ‘We are going for freedom. We are going for everything!’

The protests were organised by the Women’s Strike, a group behind recent mass nationwide protests. 

Others also joined in, including farmers and entrepreneurs angry at the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Warsaw, police announced on loudspeakers that the protest was illegal, saying ‘we have an epidemic.’ 

October’s abortion verdict drew condemnation from several human rights groups in Europe and the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, with Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic calling it ‘a sad day for #WomensRights’.

Donald Tusk, a Pole who currently leads the European People’s Party after presiding the European Council, called the timing of the abortion issue ‘political wickedness’.

‘Throwing the topic of abortion and a ruling by a pseudo-court into the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynical,’ he tweeted at the time.

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