More than a year ago thousands of Polish women successfully took to the streets wearing black to protest against the tightening of the abortion law that is already one of the most restrictive in Europe. Hundred years ago Polish women gained voting rights. In January 2018, a historical backlash took place as Polish women lost a battle for their reproductive rights.
Current legislation, passed in 1993, bans all abortions except in cases of rape or incest, if the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother or if the foetus is severely deformed.
In the country of 38 million people, officially there are around 1,000 legally performed abortions a year, though women’s groups estimate that 100,000 to 150,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.
On January 10th, 2018, the Polish parliament, which is controlled by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, discussed two competing draft laws delivered by citizens’ committees: pro-choice “Let’s Save Women 2017” draft that aims to liberalize the existing reproductive rights law and another “Stop abortion” that seeks to ban abortion when the foetus is deformed.
During late night proceedings in the Polish parliament, the abortion debate took a dramatic turn. “Let’s Save Women 2017” draft was rejected in the voting and “Stop Abortion” draft was approved for further proceeding.
The initiative “Let’s Save Women 2017” calls for allowing abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy for psychological and social reasons, for over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill, introduction of sexual education into school curriculums, and proper medical care for pregnant women.
Already in November 2017, President Andrzej Duda, who is close to the Catholic Church, vowed to sign the initiative into law if it is adopted “in order to abolish the right to kill children with Down Syndrome”. Furthermore, in the following months, in response to a call from lawmakers, the Constitutional Court, controlled by PiS, is due to rule on the constitutionality of the right to an abortion in the case of a deformed foetus.
This may result in total abortion ban, thus, totally limiting productive rights of women in Poland.
Not only the debate and voting was held in late night hours, a day after establishing a new government in Poland, but also hearing of the “Let’s Save Women 2017” draft was ignored by majority of members of the Parliament, which shows lack of respect to the subject. Also, many opposition party members were not present and did not vote – only 8 votes more were needed to pass the “Let’s Save Women 2017” draft for further proceedings. This left women confused, angry, and – alone, in the battle for their rights. Lack of respect for women and ignorance for the subject are scandalous.
The situation of women in Poland is dramatic.
The “Stop Abortion” proposal is less restrictive than the one prepared by ultra catholic Ordo Iuris back in October 2016, that set off the protest of tens of thousands of women dressed in black across the country, ultimately leading the parliament to scrap it.
However, already in November 2016, a new law “For Life” was passed which promises one time 1000 EUR for women, who decide to give birth to terminally ill children, or children from incest and/ or rape, in order to have the children baptized.
Since coming to power in 2015, the PiS government has made the morning-after pill prescription-only and put an end to public funding for in-vitro fertilization (IVF). At the same time, many doctors and even entire hospitals use the “conscience clause” to avoid carrying out legal abortions.
It is no longer only about populist politicians and their agendas, this is about sacrificing women, their health and their rights to decide about their own bodies – in an European country, in the 21st Century.
The battle for reproductive rights was lost by Polish women, but they will not give up. The time has come to show our determination, our solidarity and put an end to this!
We call upon solidarity with Polish women! Solidarity is our weapon!
Power to the Women!
- Speak out about the situation of Polish women and their struggle for reproductive rights;
- Take a solidarity picture wearing black with hashtags #RatujmyKobiety (Let’s save women) #SolidarityIsOurWeapon #SolidarityWithPolishWomen #BlackProtest
- Contact activists and NGOs for a global women’s solidarity network – together we are stronger!
- Share this message!