Polish Women Gathered To Protest Against Abortion Ban
In an attempt to break free from the claws of cultural conservatism, over 30,000 women flocked to the streets of Poland on Monday and waged a colossal protest against the legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion. Donned in black, pro-choice Polish women waved black flags, refusing to work they went on strike on what they dubbed “Black Monday”. Even men — including several public figures — joined these women on the streets of Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw and other places across the country that is mostly Catholic. Demonstrations were held in solidarity with other European cities, including Berlin and Dusseldorf in Germany, Brussels in Belgium, Belfast in Ireland, London and Paris. In Brussels, some 200 black-clad protesters joined the campaign, picketing in front of the European Union offices, with banners reading “No to the abortion ban.”
Monday’s street march was a follow-up of a protest by thousands on Saturday, in front of the Warsaw parliament. Wearing black, these women have been mourning for the feared loss of their reproductive rights and the punishments associated with it. Thousands of people braved the rain on Monday to join a demonstration in Warsaw’s historic old town. The protest, however, didn’t gauge much support in villages because of conservative mindset but saw huge rallies in cities. The organisers of Monday’s strike took their inspiration from a strike by women in Iceland in 1975 when 90% of women refused to work, clean or look after children, to voice anger at discrimination in the workplace. A law the following year guaranteed equal rights for men and women.
The Law – Old and New
Poland already had a pretty stringent and regressive legislation in force regarding abortion since 1993. Abortion is already banned in most circumstances, except where the woman’s life is in danger, where there is a serious risk of foetus getting damaged and where the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest.
The new proposal is to impose a stricter law which will make all abortions illegal, even in cases of rape or when the women’s life is at risk, with prison terms of up to five years for women seeking abortion and doctors who perform them.
The proposal originally came from an anti-abortion citizens’ initiative that had gathered 4,50,000 signatures in a nation with a population of 38 million. Church also supported it. The conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, which has a majority in parliament, includes supporters of the proposal but it’s not clear if there are enough to push it through.
Aside from Malta and the Vatican, the other European countries with stricter laws than Poland has at present are Republic of Ireland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, and San Marino.
According to BBC, Critics say the tightening of the law could mean women who have a miscarriage are also investigated, on suspicion of having had the pregnancy terminated deliberately. At early stages of pregnancy, miscarriages and abortions have indistinguishable symptoms. Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski criticized the way protesters were expressing their views, saying: “We expect serious debate on questions of life, death and birth. We do not expect happenings, dressing in costumes and creating artificial problems.”
“This is a barbarian proposal that will move Poland back to medieval times,” a liberal activist told The New York Times, referring to the proposed ban on a woman’s “right” to kill her unborn child.
The Logical Indian supports the Polish movement against the abolition of abortion. A woman has the right to exercise her choice whether she wants to give birth a child or not. The reasons may include unwanted pregnancy, pregnancy due to rape, or physical complication. If a woman is punished for aborting a child for such a case, then it would be against her will, a burden to be precise that may lead to future complications. Besides such a law indeed throws a country to feudalism and going by religious norms. Human rights get flouted in such a case.