Thousands joined in a march in Warsaw Oct. 23 to protest a ruling the day before by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that bans abortion even in the case “of a severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’s life.”
This will lead to a near-total ban as this was the grounds for 98% of all legal abortions in Poland last year. Under the ruling, abortion will only be allowed in the case of rape or incest, or if the woman’s health or life is in danger.
“There have been over 300 actions all over Poland, in big cities and small towns, every day so far, with thousands of people,” Krystyna Kacpura, executive director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, told the Militant from Warsaw Oct. 28.
In taking to the streets protesters defied government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions. In most of the country, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned.
Three previous attempts by the government to increase restrictions on women’s right to choose failed in the face of demonstrations by thousands. The government launched a third attempt earlier this year, but the bill did not come to a vote. Instead, a group of legislators requested that the Constitutional Tribunal review the clause, bypassing parliament.
Women’s groups estimate that as many as 200,000 women in Poland get abortions every year — either clandestinely or by going abroad. The burden of the restrictions falls hardest on working-class women and women in rural areas who cannot afford to travel or seek expensive private clinics.