Women in Poland took to the streets dressed in all black today to protest the government’s consideration to criminalize abortion in all cases, including when the life of the woman is at risk.
Pro-choice advocates encouraged women in the largely Catholic nation to boycott work and school to demonstrate against a proposed law that would, among other things, punish women who were found to have an abortion with five years in prison. Their hope was to bring the economy to a halt to highlight the importance women play in society.
A number of businesses and shops in cities across the country closed so as to allow their female employees to protest. Many women who went to work were adorned in all black garments.
“A lot of women and girls in this country have felt that they don’t have any power, that they are not equal, that they don’t have the right to an opinion,” said Magda Starosczyk, a strike coordinator, to The Guardian. “This is a chance for us to be seen, and to be heard.”
Abortion in Poland is already banned unless the woman’s life is in danger, there is serious damage to the fetus or the pregnancy is a result of a rape as confirmed by a prosecutor. These are some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe and public opinion in Poland shows very little support for tightening them further.
Official figures show that there are approximately 1,000 abortion performed legally in Poland each year. However, around 150,000 women are believed to access illegal abortion methods every year, mostly using pills bought online.
Many activists are saying the new law would lead to investigations into any woman who has a miscarriage. In addition, doctors could be prosecuted if a pre-mature baby happens to die after a lifesaving C-section late in a woman’s pregnancy, as often has to happen if a woman develops pre-eclampsia.
The parliament has also proposed another oppressive bill that would restrict IVF, outlawing the freezing of embryos and only permitting doctors to fertilize one egg at a time.
The strike was inspired by a similar movement in Iceland over 40 years ago, when 90 percent of women refused to work or engage in domestic work to remind everyone of the value women bring to society and the workplace. A year later, a law was passed in Iceland guaranteeing equal rights for women and men.