After the Polish constitutional court issued a ruling in October that imposed a near-total ban on abortion in the country, over one hundred thousand Polish activsts have been been protesting the law, now for over 100 days. These protests are the largest mass protest movement that the country has seen in its post-communist era.
Yesterday, left-wing lawmakers and women’s rights organizations presented a plan to collect signatures in support of legalizing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The proposal also stipulates that the national health system would fund abortion in those weeks.
Poland is a conservative country with strong ties to the Catholic Church. The country’s conservative party, Law and Justice, holds the majority in parliament.
In order for the proposal to be introduced to the legislature for debate, it must receive 100,000 citizen signatures. While activists recognize that the measure will not pass as long as the country’s ruling conservative party has the majority in parliament, their aim is to spark a social debate that can persuade the government and the public that abortion must be safe and legal because people have abortions regardless of their legality.
Marta Lempart with Women’s Strike, the organization behind recent protests, stated that the proposal is part of a long-term plan to legalize abortion in the country. This week’s proposal is the fifth attempt to liberalize abortion in the country since the 1993 law was implemented to ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest, risk to patient’s life or health, or fetal abnormalities.
In Argentina, where the government recently legalized abortion, activsts struggled for 15 years and had nine failed attempts before its success in 2020.
“As in our Argentinian sisters’ case, we go huge steps forward but we have to also go huge steps backward, and that’s what happened in Poland.”
One 23-year-old protester said, “We are here because the new abortion law’s verdict came into force and women became live incubators… the matter is simple to me: I want to have my rights and choice and I think everybody thinks similarly here and we have to support one another.”
Sources: ABC News 2/3/21; BBC News 1/30/21; CNN 1/31/21