Arezu Shamsaei Gil
Massive protests took place in late October in Warsaw, Poland. The root of the anger stems from the country’s rightwing Law and Justice party’s decision to outlaw the majority of abortions. The legislation bans abortions in cases where the fetus is diagnosed with a serious and irreversible birth defect and makes them unconstitutional. The Guardian explains that this decision sparked outrage in Warsaw, as this ban outlaws 96 percent of legal abortions that take place in Poland.
Over 400,000 women and allies took to the streets in response to this legislation and took part in a “women’s strike”. The demonstrations have gained much attention on the internet as the country faces a battle for a woman’s right to choose. Reuters reports that two demonstrators stripped naked in front of the Presidential Palace with swear words written on their bodies. The symbolic representation of the act was a physical demonstration of the fight for women’s rights and the ongoing battle to protect healthcare and reproductive rights for women. The demonstrations represent the ongoing contentious dispute between progressives and conservatives in the Catholic country, as well.
In response to the massive protests, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sent a message to the government to discuss modifying the ban to be less restrictive in hopes of settling the streets during the midst of a global pandemic. The Associated Press reports Morawiecki stated, “I ask you to sit down together for talks. May our disputes not be held in the streets and may they not be the cause of more infections”. The Prime Minister’s response represents a hopeful start for the protestors who refuse to cease their demands for change until the barbaric law is overturned.
The Associated Press also explains that the right-wing party currently in power has a history of conservative opinions regarding other issues such as LGBT rights and animal rights. The majority of Polish citizens want Prime Minister Morawiecki to step away from the administration’s conservative views. The ruling on abortion is the last straw for the already unfavored Prime Minister who now suffers a great deal with his public standing. It is clear that Poland does not support the current conservative direction, and the government will face continuous backlash from the people.
In response to the massive protests, Polish President Andrzej Duda offered an alternative to the law instead, banning only abortions on fetuses with down syndrome. This small change represents the power that protests have and how the people can demand change from their government while also seeing results. However, CBS News explains this alteration to the law is still too restrictive and the people remain opposed. Since the government is not budging much on the issue, the protests will continue until less restrictive actions are taken against abortion.
As the world observes Poland’s restrictive policy pass at its highest court, explains that the United States is watching very closely. The two countries now share a history of ongoing debates concerning the restriction on abortions. U.S. law follows Roe V. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalizes abortions during the first trimester. However, state restrictions make it difficult for women to use their right. These restrictions are constantly argued in courts in order to prevent their implementation but are not always successful. Although the U.S. has Roe v. Wade to protect abortions at the federal level, what is occurring in Poland’s conservative government could be an inspiration for the U.S. With the new confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett taking a seat at the U.S. Supreme Court, her unclear opinion on abortion might lead to new discussions to overturn the highly controversial decision of Roe v Wade and put women’s reproductive rights at risk.