Near-Total Abortion Ban Takes Effect in Poland

Shweta Parthasarathy
Staff Writer

The government of Poland has instituted a near-total ban on abortions, spurring protests across the country. The ban suddenly took effect nearly three months after the country’s constitutional court ruled abortions of congenitally damaged fetuses unconstitutional. The court’s decision three months ago led to several weeks of protesting that delayed the enforcement of the ruling – the recent implementation has led to even more demonstrations.

The ban last Wednesday almost immediately sparked protests, especially in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, reports the Associated Press. According to CNN, since the court announced its decision, there have been more than 100 days of continuous protests. The protests, which have been primarily led by Women’s Strike, a prominent women’s rights group in Poland, are the largest since the fall of communism in Poland, reports The Guardian. The leaders of Women’s Strike wore green headscarves in a nod to the successful campaign to legalize abortion in Argentina earlier this year. Women’s Strike claims that a total of five people were detained at the protests, including Klementyna Suchanow, one of the leaders of the movement.

CNN says that the conservative Polish government, which holds strong ties to the Catholic Church, supports the court’s ruling and the ban that followed. The ruling Law and Justice Party is socially conservative and holds pro-life and anti-abortion rhetoric at the forefront of its platform. They claim this ban will protect the human rights of the fetus. Karolina Pawlowska, an official at the Ordo Iuris international law center, explained to BBC News that the ban will also prevent “discrimination against children who are sick or disabled.” She also added that the court’s ruling was entirely compliant with the Polish constitution and UN treaties on the rights of children.

The protestors, on the other hand, believe that the abortion ban is a violation of their human rights. Nearly 200,000 women sought illegal abortions or travel abroad for the procedure. One protestor in Rzeszow held up a poster that said an “abortion ban is discrimination against the poorest,” since poorer women cannot travel abroad for abortions and may be forced into more unsafe methods. The Associated Press also reported that some protestors claim if they are denied the right to terminate pregnancies in cases of fetal abnormalities, they would not try to have children at all.

One protestor, Gabriela Stepniak, told BBC News why she is protesting the ban, saying, “I want us to have our basic rights, the right to decide about our bodies, the right to decide what we want to do and if we want to bear children and in what circumstances to have children.” Zuzia, a high school student in Poland, said, “It’s very important to be here because women’s rights are being trampled.”

A corporate worker, Eliza, 46, who carried a placard saying, “This is war,” said, “I think all women are here for freedom for Polish women. We are protesting here. A group of women saying ‘no’ to our government and their decisions.”

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