Published On: Sat, Oct 24th, 2020

Angry protests as Poland’s top court bans virtually all abortions


People block a street near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law in Warsaw
People block a street near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion in Warsaw, Poland October 23, 2020.

AGENCJA GAZETA / REUTERS


Hundreds of people took to the streets in cities across Poland on Thursday night, protesting against the tightening of the country’s abortion laws, which were already among the strictest in Europe. Police met the protesters with pepper spray in some places, and at least 15 demonstrators were arrested.

Clashes between protesters and the police turned violent in the capital city of Warsaw after a ruling by the Constitutional Court left virtually all abortions banned in the conservative country.

The court ruled that ending the life of a fetus with congenital defects was unconstitutional, meaning abortions are now only legal in Poland in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health. Those cases make up only about 2% of the pregnancy terminations carried out legally in the country in recent years. 


Battle over abortion laws in Poland

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According to The Associated Press, Health Ministry figures show that most of the 1,110 legal abortions performed last year were due to fetal genetic defects including Down syndrome, or to physical defects.

The ruling by the country’s top court quickly drew protesters out onto the streets in various cities.

In Warsaw, hundreds marched from the Constitutional Court to the private home of Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Some protesters carried signs with the word “torture” on them.

Police officers reportedly used pepper spray and made the arrests when some protesters threw stones and tried to push through a security cordon around Kaczynski’s house.  

People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law in Poland in Warsaw
People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortions in Poland, in Warsaw, October 22, 2020.  

AGENCJA GAZETA / REUTERS


Many critics have accused the government of taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to push legislative changes while scrutiny is minimized by lockdown measures.

The conservative Law and Justice Party, a strong ally of the Catholic Church, has been pushing for tighter abortion laws for many years, often prompting mass protests by women’s rights activists and other groups. Protesters were planning to gather again Friday evening to decry the court’s ruling.

Women’s rights activists told CBS News that the consequences of the new law would be significant, and that in addition to banning virtually all abortions, it will also impose prison sentences for women who decide to have the procedure illegally, and could even lead to criminal investigations into miscarriages.



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