Polish lawmakers agree to consider total abortion ban

Abortion | The measure sent to committee for a formal draft would outlaw the procedure for any reason
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 9/23/16, 02:52 pm

Polish lawmakers moved one step closer this morning to adopting a total ban on abortion.

Members of Parliament voted in favor of the “Stop Abortion” initiative by an overwhelming 267 to 154 margin and moved it to commissions, where it will be debated, drafted into a bill, and later put to a vote.

As is, the initiative would outlaw abortion for any reason and penalize abortion providers and women who undergo abortions with up to five years in prison. Poland now allows abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape and incest, and up to 24 weeks if the child suffers abnormalities or the mother’s life is endangered.

“We are very pleased to see such a strong vote for life, especially since members [of Parliament] know they will be facing economic threats from the European Union,” said Ewa Kowalewska, director of Human Life International Poland.

Poland has faced international pressure to make abortion more accessible and to consider legalizing same-sex marriage. But the deeply Catholic nation has worked steadily away from left-leaning policies since the 1989 fall of communism. In November, the conservative Law and Justice Party rose to power and has been pushed hard to return even further to the country’s roots.

Human Life International’s Stephen Phelan told me Poland has a “Christian identity that has been largely excluded from its politics until right now, when lots of people think this is the chance to bring it back.”

Opposition to the “Stop Abortion” initiative was widespread, prompting a large protest in Warsaw and more than 200,000 signatures on a “Save Women” initiative also presented to Parliament this morning. It sought to allow unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation and to usher in official sexual education.

Members of Parliament squashed the “Save Women” initiative  with a vote of 230-173.

An April poll shows most Poles oppose a total abortion ban, with 84 percent in favor of legal abortion if the mother’s life is in danger, and 74 percent in favor in cases of rape.

But Kowalewska, who worked toward the 1993 Polish law outlawing most cases of abortion, said that new initiative accurately reflects Poland.

“Ours is a very pro-life society that wants to protect women’s health even as we eliminate exceptions on abortion that are used to deceive people,” she said. “There is a great irony that critics of the initiative say that the very popular effort … is ‘anti-democratic.’ These radical groups are funded by billionaires outside our nation, they lost a democratic vote, and they are saying that this is a ‘failure of democracy.’ This is quite obviously absurd.”

The pro-life movement has long been likened abortion to Nazi oppression of Poles during World War II. In 2010, a pro-life billboard created a stir with images of dismembered babies, Adolf Hitler’s portrait, and the phrase, “Abortion for Polish women introduced by Hitler on March 9, 1943.”

As Parliament debated the “Stop Abortion” initiative Thursday, law professor Joanna Banasiuk drew the same parallel.

“Abortion means a massacre of children,” she said. “It means hell for women and moral discredit for men, first imposed by Hitler’s thugs and then introduced by the communist regime on a mass scale.”

In the 25 years since the fall of communism, Poland has seen a steep drop of maternal and infant mortality, with only three in every 100,000 maternal deaths last year. The United States, by comparison, has more than quadruple that rate.

Pro-life group Heartbeat International’s Jay Hobbs found Poland’s vote encouraging.

“Abortion does nothing to advance the good of women, either in Poland or anywhere else in the world,” he said. “No pregnant mother should ever feel so alone or hopeless that she ends her child’s life through abortion.”

Samantha Gobba

Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.

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