The Polish parliament has indefinitely delayed a final vote on a controversial bill that would almost completely ban abortion in the country. Poland’s current abortion laws, some of the strictest in Europe, only allow abortions in cases of rape or incest, danger to the pregnant person’s life, or severe fetal impairment. The proposed bill would remove fetal impairment, the justification for 98 percent of legal abortions in Poland, from that list.
Rather than vote on the bill, legislators sent it to two committees for further discussion. Human rights groups and activists criticized the government for considering the bill at all, particularly during the coronavirus crisis. Legislators withdrew a similar proposal following mass protests in 2016, an impossibility now due to Poland’s COVID-19 lockdown. Gatherings are limited to five people, with violations punishable by fine.
Protests occurred despite those restrictions. People hung posters on bikes and cars and posted protest videos online. On streets in Warsaw and Poznan, protesters wearing masks and standing six feet apart held signs supporting abortion access.
“They thought we wouldn’t protest at all,” Marta Lempart, founder of Women’s Strike, a grassroots women’s rights organization. “I think they thought we would be afraid of the economic persecution.”
Polish lawmakers are also considering a divisive and conservative bill that would criminalize “the promotion of underage sex,” effectively banning sex education in schools. Activists also warn that this bill would be used to persecute gay people.
“Attempting to pass these recklessly retrogressive laws at any time would be shameful, but to rush them through under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis is unconscionable,” said Draginja Nadazdin, the director of Amnesty International in Poland.
Sources: AP News 4/16/20; CNN 4/15/20; ABC News 4/15/20; BBC News 4/15/20