Polish government reverses stance on total abortion ban

Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Archdiocese of Los Angeles

06 October, 2016

CTV News reports that the decision was largely influenced by the protestors, with the minister of science and higher education, Jaroslaw Gowin, even saying that the protestors have "caused us to think and taught us humility".

"As part of 'Black Monday,' more than 100,000 protesters [around the country] vowed to boycott work or school", as Common Dreams reported, launching a massive mobilization against the legislation that would have criminalized abortion in almost all cases, including rape and incest.

The European Union's parliament also plans to hold a debate on Wednesday on the situation of women in Poland in light of the efforts to totally ban abortion, which includes calls for prison terms of up to five years for a woman who seeks an abortion or the doctor.

The draft bill would tighten Poland's abortion regulations, already among the strictest in Europe, by eliminating exceptions for rape and for fatal fetal abnormalities, and by narrowing an exception for saving the life of a mother to cases where a pregnant woman is in "immediate" fatal danger. She said the massive gathering by young Polish women on Monday, followed by similar streets protests on Saturday, was unprecedented.

Beata Szydlo also said she does not approve of her foreign minister's strong criticism of the many Poles who took part in large protests on Monday against the proposal. Some Polish women also boycotted work and classes to protest the proposal.

Earlier on Tuesday, foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski called the protests "marginal" and denounced them as "a mockery of important issues".

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"I summoned him and told him that there will be no approval for that kind of commentary of these events", Szydlo said. It looks like they've been heard, because on Wednesday, Senate speaker Stanislaw Karczewski has said that the upper house of parliament would not initiate work on the bill that would make the abortion ban law. "I am a great opponent of killing such children".

"A total ban certainly won't get through", he said.

The proposal was inspired by a petition signed by 450,000 people, the AP writes; more than 38 million people live in Poland.

The move comes after senior officials began distancing themselves from the proposal, which gained country-wide support after anti-abortion NGOs and the Catholic Church lobbied for support.

As the Two-Way reported yesterday, women's rights groups had been anxious for months that the ruling Law and Justice party - which controls the parliament and the presidency, and has curtailed the power of the constitutional court - would move to restrict abortion access.

The comments appear to indicate that Poland's conservative leadership will withhold support for the highly unpopular proposal to ban abortions, even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is at risk.

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