Protests over Polish government’s attempt to tighten abortion laws

Poland already has some of the strictest anti-abortion legislation in Europe. Under current law, women in Poland are only legally allowed to have an abortion if the life of the foetus is at risk, the pregnancy would be a threat to the woman’s health or if the pregnancy was a result of a crime like rape or incest. Despite these strict laws, the government is now attempting to restrict access even further – leading to protests across the country.

The Polish government has already attempted to ban abortions altogether. In 2016, they announced they were planning to introduce laws that would mean that all abortions would be illegal. However, these plans were quickly shut down due to mass protests from the public. Under the new proposals, abortions would be restricted. They would still be allowed in cases where the mother’s life was at risk of if the pregnancy was as a result of a crime, but in other cases, including where the foetus had developmental problems, they would be banned.

This has led to thousand of people protesting in cities across Poland. In Warsaw, people chanted slogans about women’s freedom with banners saying “Free choice” and “A woman is a human being”. People have also gathered at the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishops, who are influential in the decision making process and highly in favour of tightening laws. The protest then moved to the headquarters of the Law and Justice Party.

Another protest in Wroclaw saw protesters holding signs, including one saying  “I will not give birth to a dead baby”. Małgorzata, 58, a psychologist, said in an interview: “I am against treating woman as an inferior type of human being. I support women’s rights to decide about their bodies and their lives.”

The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muižnieks agreed, saying that the new proposals are contradictory to human rights commitments that have been made by Poland. “If adopted, the draft law would remove the possibility of terminating the pregnancy in case of severe foetal impairment, including in cases where such impairment is fatal,” Muižnieks wrote. “This step would be at variance with Poland’s obligations under international human rights law.”

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