For a week, Poles have taken to the streets across the country to protest against a constitution tribunal decision imposing an almost complete ban on abortion.
On Wednesday, a “women’s strike” brought more rallies to Polish cities and it was expected to culminate with a protest outside parliament in the capital Warsaw. The court ruling outlaws abortion on the grounds of severe health defects – which accounted for 98% of all legal terminations in Poland in 2019.
One opinion poll on Wednesday suggested 59% of Poles disagreed with the ruling. Abortion is now possible only where a mother’s health is at risk or in cases of rape or incest. Here are the views from both sides of the debate.
Why am I out on the streets?
Agnieszka Kranz, telecom company manager, Bydgoszcz
For the majority of us these protests are no longer only just about the extreme abortion law, although this is the main reason.
It’s about freedom of choice.
The ban sparked a fight about our basic human rights in general. Now, it is about abortion, but a month ago it was about LGBT rights.
Step by step we have slowly been losing the universally acclaimed basic human rights, which are already very limited compared with what we had in the past before PiS (Law and Justice) came to power.
The sad truth is that the right-wing government is pushing Poland deeper towards authoritarian regimes and out of the EU.
I can’t let this happen, and most Poles don’t give their consent on that either. Therefore, the law on abortion is for us “a bastion”. If we lose this, we will lose hope that we will have any protection of our rights and a voice on matters which matter.
A question of human rights
Karolina Pawlowska, Ordo Iuris international law centre
It is not a matter of religion whether someone has a right to life. It is not about someone’s beliefs or not but in this debate there are too many emotions.
I think in many cases there is a misunderstanding.
Many of the protesters are spreading disinformation saying this ruling will force women to give birth to children even if their lives are at risk, and that is not true. Of course it is very easy to manipulate people’s views. It is hard to say if the opinion polls are credible.
With this ruling, Poland is taking a major step toward realising human rights and I hope it will influence other European countries. All human rights treaties show the most important right is the right to life and it’s clearly stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that every child should be protected before and after birth.
The constitutional tribunal’s ruling is in line with those treaties. But it’s very important to say that every woman should be protected – and we should have more social solidarity.
Most of the judges on the tribunal were elected, also by the previous government, so there should not be any doubt about the legality of the ruling.
The protests are very aggressive and we have had acts of vandalism against churches and individuals. Yesterday, protest organisers shared phone numbers and addresses of right to life people. They’re not safe in their own homes.