By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
WARSAW, Poland – On March 23rd, thousands of protesters across the Poland marched in response to plans to fortify country’s already strict abortion laws.
A new bill in parliament intends to ban abortions that are performed as a result of fetal abnormalities, one of the few instances in which an abortion is currently allowed in the country.
The “Black Friday” protests were conducted across the country as a result of the proposal.
Abortion is currently banned for the most part in Poland. Currently, abortions are allowed in cases of rape, incest, when there is serious threat to the mother’s health or if the fetus has been found to have severe, irreversible damage.
However, illegal abortions are rampant in Poland. For every 1,000 to 2,000 legal abortions there are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 illegal ones.
A letter from over 200 groups stressed that “This bill would further hinder women, particularly those from low-income and rural communities, from accessing safe abortion care….and place women’s health and lives at risk and violate Poland’s international human rights obligations.”
Europe’s human rights watchdog, The Council of Europe, is urging lawmakers to reject the bill, stressing that violates Poland’s human rights commitments.
Proponents of the bill say that 96% of abortions performed in 2016 were on fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, supports the bill and has promised to sign it if it is approved by parliament.
A bill drafted in 2016 proposed to ban all abortions, even those where it was essentially guaranteed that the fetus would die. The bill also would have limited access to prenatal care as well as contraception. This proposal was rejected after it initiated nationwide demonstrations, with more than 150,000 Polish citizens mobilizing across the country to oppose it.
The same women’s groups that protested in 2016 came back out in force to oppose the latest legislation which is entitled “Stop Abortion.”
Droves of people took to the streets with signs reading “Girl Power” and “My body, my choice.”
Critics of the bill fear that if already strict abortion laws are made even more stringent, women will travel to other countries to obtain abortions or resort to unsafe methods, putting their lives at risk.
Draginja Nadazdin, director or Amnesty International, spoke on the matter, saying “Women in Poland are strong and determined and we will defeat this threat. But we should not have to fight our own members of parliament to get our basic rights.”
For more information, please see:
BBC News – Poland Abortion: Protests Against Bill Imposing new Limits – 26 March 2018
CNN – Poles March Against Abortion ban, Again. – 23 March 2018
Newsweek – Black Friday Protests Against ‘Stop Abortion’ Bill Planned in Poland – 23 March 2018
New York Times – Polish Women Protest Proposed Abortion Ban (Again) – 23 March 2018