Poland enforces a near-total ban on abortions

A controversial near-total ban has taken effect in Poland, with enforcement immediately

Photo by @katetomaszczyk

By Lois Barker
Sub-edited By Jasmine Wing

A court ruling in Poland has sparked huge street protests from activists. Changes to the right to abortion have been made and have triggered outrage. Following the announcement of the ruling being enforced, groups defied the COVID-19 restrictions and protested in Warsaw. There were LGBT flags, red flares and signs reading “Free Choice, Not Terror”

Abortion is now allowed only in cases of rape, incest or when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.

The Constitutional Court in October ruled that the1993 law, which allowed abortion in cases of severe and irreversible foetal abnormalities was unconstitutional. Malgorzata Szulecka, a lawyer for Human Rights told BBC “It’s inhuman, it’s despicable honestly to make anyone carry a pregnancy to term, especially if the foetus is malformed, and 98% of legal abortions carried out in Poland are due to foetal malformations”

The majority of people in Poland oppose this stricter ban and demonstrations took place in Polish cities on Wednesday 27th January 2021. Poland’s conservative government, which has strong ties to the country’s powerful Catholic Church, supports the ruling.

The court justified its ruling on the grounds that “an unborn child is a human being” and therefore it deserves protection under Poland’s constitution which ensures the right to life.

The mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski tweeted his alliance with protesters and called on women to reject the decision on the streets.

Leaders of Poland’s Women’s Strike movement (OSK) have opposed the abortion ban and wore green headscarves in solidarity, a nod to Argentina’s women’s movement which successfully campaigned to legalise abortion in 2020. Groups who support the ban have said it is about the human rights of the child.

Karolina Pawlowska from Ordo luris international law centre told BBC, “we are very happy that this judgement has been published. It is a great step towards the realisation of human rights of all human beings. This also means there will no longer be discrimination against children who are sick or disabled,” she said and added that the court’s ruling was in line with the Polish constitution and UN treaties on the rights of the child.

Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with around 1,000 legal terminations taking place each year. An estimated 200,000 women have abortions illegally or travel abroad for the procedure.

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