Why this story matters:
The abortion law in Poland is among the strictest in the world. However, following pressure from the Catholic Church and right-wing politicians, parliament is moving fast towards limiting it further by delegalizing abortion in cases of congenital diseases.
In response, another "black protest" was organized (the first took place in fall 2016 and succeeded in halting a proposal to ban abortion without exception). In Warsaw, an estimated 55,000 Poles donned black and marched from parliament to the headquarters of the ruling party (PiS) to express their anger at this new attack on reproductive rights. Similar protests (though not as large) took place in cities all over the country.
If the new law passes, effectively 90% of abortions currently allowed and being carried out in Poland will become illegal.
Needless to say, this move will not prevent women from getting abortions. It will only broaden the existing abortion underground. Privileged women will travel to clinics in Germany, the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
The underprivileged ones will either undergo cheap procedures in life-threatening conditions or give birth to dead or sick children, against their will.
As a journalist but also a future mother, it is heartbreaking for me to hear politicians imply that women are irrational and cruel "abortionists" when it will be us who will be left to care for handicapped children or live with the trauma of watching them die shortly after childbirth.
The Polish state has great sympathy for unborn children but little for live ones and their mothers.
Details from the story:
- The current law allows women to terminate pregancy in 3 cases: if it results from rape, when the woman's life is in jeopardy or if the fetus is irreparably damaged or suffers from a congenital disease.
- In 2016, 1098 legal pregnancy terminations were conducted on the grounds of fetal damage.
- On Monday, March 19, the parliamentary Justice and Human Rights Committee approved the "Stop abortion" project, which proposes curbing the current law.
- The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) has called on the Polish parliament to reject the draft bill, on the grounds that it risks causing serious damage to women’s health and lives, and violates Poland’s international human rights obligations.
- The bill is only two steps away from being enforced -- it must first be approved by the parliamentary Commission for Social Policy and Family and then by the parliament itself. The ruling party has a majority in both bodies.
- According to CBOS, 1 in 3 Polish women have had an abortion.
- The Federation for Women and the Planning of Family estimates that 100-150 thousand Polish women undergo illegal abortions annually.
- Although Poles are predominantly conservative, the majority of them is against curbing the abortion law, even supporters of the ruling party.
- On Friday March 23, approximately 55,000 Poles wore black on the streets of Warsaw, in what was the biggest Black Protest since fall 2016.
- If the law is enforced, Poland will join Malta, Iran and El Salvador -- the countries with the strictest abortion law in the world.