Thousands of people in Poland are taking to the streets in protest over a new court ruling on abortion, reports the New York Times. The nation’s top court’s decision completely bans the practice except in cases of rape, incest, or health necessity.
The ruling also stated that abortions based on the perceived health of the fetus constituted illegal discrimination. According to France24, the court claims that ending a pregnancy due to birth defects is a form of eugenics. The leader of the ruling, right-wing Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, greatly influenced the ruling and said in 2016, “We will strive to ensure that even cases of very difficult pregnancies, when the child is certain to die, very deformed, still end up in a birth, so that the child can be baptized, buried, [and] have a name.”
The ruling caused great unrest in Poland and sparked some of the largest countrywide protests since the 2000s. Both men and women marched the streets of Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice, Szczecin, Wroclaw, and even in front of Kaczynski’s residence. Many Polish citizens believe that the ruling violates their human rights and could lead to further restrictions of their civil rights. Others point out that many will still seek abortions and turn to unsafe methods to get them, which would cause deaths and injury. Those opposing the ruling believe that it will force women to go through a full-term pregnancy knowing their fetus is unlikely to survive. BBC News states that many civilians and politicians, such as former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, are also angry that the ruling was passed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide curfews have been set in place and public gatherings are to be limited dangerous, which discourages displayed opposition to the ruling.
Many political leaders and domestic and international human rights organizations have stated their opposition towards the ruling. Polish President Andrej Duda has changed his stance on the topic, seemingly to calm the protests. Though Duda was originally in support of the ruling, he has since stated that he would propose a bill allowing for the abortion of fetuses with genetic problems in the most serious of cases, meaning that the fetus is likely to be stillborn or have little to no chance of survival, according to Reuters.
Citizens of foreign countries have shown their support for the people of Poland by protesting in cities across the world. There have been protests in London, Vienna, Stockholm, Chicago, Glasgow, Brussels, Oslo, and more in support of protesters in Poland. According to Reuters, many of the international protesters gathered in front of Polish embassies in their respective cities to put pressure on the Polish government. Various high-ranking politicians in the EU have spoken out against the policy, including Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe. Mijatovic tweeted that the ruling violates human rights and women’s rights.
Despite vast international support for the protesters, there has also been domestic opposition. Many protesters have been attacked in Wroclaw, Poznan, and Bialystok by far-right groups after Kaczynski’s comments urging people to “protect the streets,” according to the Associated Press.