Poland: Mass protests force back down on abortion ban

October 6, 2016

Poland’s ruling far-right Law and Justice party has reversed its support for a draconian abortion ban after women across the country went on strike to protest the proposed law.

Jarosław Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said that large protests and strikes on October 3 had “caused us to think and taught us humility,” The Guardian reported.

Bloomberg said: “In one of the biggest policy climb-downs since winning power 11 months ago, Law and Justice lawmakers on Wednesday voted down the same measure they passed two weeks earlier, sending it back to the lower house of parliament for a final vote.” Common Dreams said of the large October 3 protests: “As part of ‘Black Monday,’ more than 100,000 protesters [around the country] vowed to boycott work or school.”

The protests helped launch a huge mobilisation against the law, which would have criminalised abortion in nearly all cases, including rape and incest. Solidarity protests were also held in Paris, Berlin, Brussels, London, and elsewhere in Europe, as well as in the United States.

The Guardian said the protests exceeded even organisers' expectations, reporting: “Despite wretched weather, approximately 30,000 people, many dressed in black, had gathered in Warsaw’s Castle Square, chanting ‘We want doctors, not missionaries’ and carrying placards bearing messages like ‘My Uterus, My Opinion,’ and ‘Women Just Want to Have FUN-damental Rights’.

“‘The protest was bigger than anyone expected—people were astonished,’ said Agnieszka Graff, a commentator and activist. ‘Warsaw was swarming with women in black. It was amazing to feel the energy and the anger, the emotional intensity was incredible.’” Aleksandra Włodarczyk, a bank administrator who participated in Monday's protest, told The Guardian: “In previous anti-government protests, it was our parents' generation on the streets.

“But with this, they have managed to mobilize the young, and we are very angry.” Abortion is already outlawed in Poland, with exceptions only permitted in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's or fetus’s life is threatened. “In practice, though, some doctors, citing moral objections, refuse to perform even legal abortions,” the CBC noted.

The Guardian noted that the “so-called ‘Black Protests’ appear to have shifted public opinion on the abortion issue, with recent polling suggesting not only near-overwhelming opposition to the proposed ban, but increasing support for liberalisation of existing laws”.

[Reprinted from Common Dreams. More on this story here.]

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