Poland: Massive Protests Delay Implementation of Abortion Restrictions

Cover photo source Twitter: @instantmyosotis

By Sandra Harris

Hundreds of thousands of people defied a ban on gatherings across Poland for protests that lasted almost two weeks against a court ruling tightening abortion restrictions. The protests, some of the largest in Poland in decades, forced an indefinite delay on the implementation of a high court ruling that would have eliminated one of the few exceptions that allow abortions in the country.

The protests came in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions which ban mass gatherings. The National Prosecutor, Bogdan Święczkowski, threatened protest organizers with up to eight years in prison for “causing an epidemiological threat,” using the COVID-19 virus as a scapegoat for repression.

The largest, most combative protests occurred in the capitol of Warsaw, where more than 100,000 protested and attempted to make their way towards the home of the reactionary Law and Justice (PiS) government party leader and deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, who has stated that children should be born even, “when certain to die,” so as to, “be baptized, buried, have a name.”

Poland’s government is heavily influenced by the Catholic church, and protesters have disrupted Mass services, confronted priests, and spray painted church buildings. Kaczyński has rallied his reactionary base to defend churches from protesters “at all costs.” Far-right groups have been present at the gatherings attacking protesters, some calling themselves the “national guard.”

Source: Twitter @kstawinska

On October 22, Poland’s constitutional tribunal ruled that inducing abortion due to fetal defects was unconstitutional, violating the “right to life.” With some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, the vast majority of abortions legally performed in Poland are due to fetal abnormalities. The court ruling would leave only cases of rape, incest, or threat to the mother’s health or life as legal avenues available to have an abortion under Polish law.

Poland has 38 million people, but it is estimated only 2,000 legal abortions are performed each year. Several Polish women’s groups estimate that up to 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or in neighboring countries.

The nearly two weeks of mass protests included strikes, shutting down many workplaces and universities gave time off for students to participate. In response, the Minister of Education and Science announced the government would withdraw funds from fifteen universities.

The government indefinitely delayed the publication of the court’s ruling on Tuesday in response to the protests, preventing it from becoming law. For the law to take effect, it would have had to be published in a government journal by November 2. Government officials are still seeking other means to implement variations of abortion restrictions, while the people remain primed to fight back against the bourgeoisie’s onslaught against the rights of women.

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