Poland: behind an almost complete ban on abortion

A controversial ruling passed in Poland is aiming to put an almost a complete ban on abortion. The verdict has sparked the largest protest the country has seen since the Solidarity Movement in the 1980s to end colonial rule.

But what does the government aims by banning abortion entirely in the country? What are the right movements doing to prevent its implementation? And the biggest question is; is it ethical to completely ban abortion?

Ban of Abortion in Poland

Poland’s majority of the population is strongly influenced by the Roman Catholicism, which is strictly against abortion in any case. The Catholic church believes that the unborn baby is a human life and “must be protected and respected absolutely from the moment of conception”.

Given the catholic population, until 1932, abortion in any cases was illegal. Though later the liberties in abortion were provided, 1939-1945 was the only time of Poland’s recent history where no form of abortion was illegal. Till now, abortion in case of rape, foetal impairment and mother’s lifetime risk is allowed.

Poland’s ultra-conservative ruling alliance have long endeavoured to rigidify the abortion law in the country. Even though a maximum of the country’s population is not in favour of any modulation; the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is doing a significant reform in the abortion laws, i.e. criminalising abortion in case of foetal impairment.

In the past other ruling parties also tried changing the policy, but massive protests \have always forced them to step back. In an October ruling, the Constitutional Court discovered that abortion under 1933 law (in case of foetal abnormalities) is unconstitutional. Therefore the government decided to illegalise abortion under such circumstances.

In October the country was outraged by this decision, fueling anti-government protest and right to abortion protests throughout Poland. Unexpectedly, according to Poland’s constitutional tribunal court verdict, the government announced that from 27th January 2021, foetal impairment abortion is illegal. While announcing, Bartlomiej Wroblewski, a lawmaker of PiS, said: “The state can no longer take a life away only because someone is sick, disabled, in poor health”.

People outraged by the abortion ban.

A survey conducted in 2019, 98% of abortions in Poland are done under the case of foetal impairment. With the new law in action, these abortions will no longer be legal. This has outraged a massive protest in the country, youth, especially women, are taking to streets, defying the strict coronavirus lockdown and bitterly cold weather. The movement is named ‘Women’s strike’ who wants the government to decriminalise the necessary abortion.

More than 400,000 protestors accumulated in the towns and cities throughout the country to show their disagreement with the new law. When the bill was introduced in 2020, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged the politicians to reject the new ruling. Encouraging the protestors against the ‘cruel decision; Esther Major, Amnesty International’s senior research adviser, said to the Guardian “Today is a terrible day for women and girls in Poland. This harmful ruling rolls back on pregnant people’s sexual and reproductive rights and puts their health at risk.”

To Reuters news, a protestor Gabriela Stepniak said, “I want us to have our basic rights, the right to decide about our bodies, the right to decide what we want to do and if we want to bear children and in what circumstances to have children.” Warsaw’s mayor Rafat Trzakowski is also opposing the ruling and is falling out women activists to reject the decision by demonstrating against it.

Critics believe that the government is deliberately causing the protest, to hide its defeat against the coronavirus and vaccination. The PiS will have to face fresh challenges in the coming election because of the modulation in the abortion laws.

Protestors are also protesting against the bill which aims to criminalise “the promotion of underage sex”. The right groups say that implementation of this law would mean the banning of sex education in schools.

How will the protest turn?

Poland already has one of the most strict abortion laws, according to a survey every year more than one thousand legal terminations are performed. Women’s claim that abortion was already a problem, even before the government proposed the law. Many doctors and health workers refuse to perform the abortion because of their religious beliefs.

Experts believe that by banning legal abortion, people might also turn to illegal ways or aborting impaired foetal, which will cause a considerable health risk for women. Already an estimate 0.2 million pregnant women have illegally aborted their child. Many women travel abroad to get their abortion done.

The government have cleared that abortion would be allowed in case of very severe impairment of foetus. In public radio a PiS lawmaker, Marek Susik said, “In cases when the fetus doesn’t have a skull or has no chance to live outside the womb, there should be a choice. We will work on this”