Poland punts proposed abortion ban after protests
Abortion | Leading party ruler called the situation a ‘giant misunderstanding’
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 10/06/16, 01:22 pm
Following street protests in the country’s major cities, Poland’s parliament voted on Thursday to reject a total abortion ban it previously agreed to consider.
Members of parliament struck down the citizens’ initiative 352-58 in response to thousands of women across the country wearing black, refusing to work or attend school, and marching through the streets with signs protesting the bill.
“We are dealing here with a giant misunderstanding,” said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party. “We have the utmost respect for those who signed the proposal. But we have come to the conclusion, observing the social situation, that this would be a factor leading to protests.”
Abortion is legal in Poland through the 12th week of pregnancy, but only in cases of rape and incest. It is legal up to the 24th week if the mother’s life is in danger or the child is diagnosed with deformities. The bill, introduced by a petition signed by 450,000 Poles, would have banned abortion completely in the predominantly Catholic nation.
Jay Hobbs at Heartbeat International, a global network of Christian crisis pregnancy centers, lamented the decision: “It is always an ominous sign when those who have given themselves over to the culture of death bully well-meaning lawmakers and public officials into backing down from a life-affirming position.”
Poland’s pro-life groups cheered when the conservative Law and Justice Party came to power in November, giving rise to hopes the ban finally had legislative backing.
After coming to office, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo called for a total abortion ban, and in the wake of parliament’s decision, has promised money to families with disabled children as well as a new awareness campaign to “promote the protection of life.”
But pro-life activists feel betrayed by the government they thought would advance their cause.
Mariusz Dzierżawski, founder of Fundacja Pro, the pro-life Polish organization that gathered signatures for the petition, said lawmakers failed their constituents.
“I am ashamed of the politicians who deceived their voters,” he said. “The murdered children have lost, the politicians who opted for the right to life in their election campaign—and chickened out today—have lost. Today, those who had no courage to stop murdering children have lost.”
This is not the first time Poland’s parliament has struck down an abortion ban: In 2011 it barely quashed a similar bill.
Opponents of the bill decried the proposed jail time for women who sought abortions and said women who experienced miscarriages could be suspected of breaking the law.
Pro-choice activists introduced a competing initiative, “Save Women,” signed by 200,000 Poles, that sought to expand Poland’s abortion laws. But members of parliament struck it down 230-173 at the same time they advanced the “Stop Abortion” bill.
Some say the push for fewer abortions accurately reflects the heart of Poland to return to its Christian roots after the 1989 fall of communism. In 1993, lawmakers ended communist-era abortion on demand policies with the current law.
Human Life International’s Stephan Phelan noted tightening abortion laws have not harmed women. Even with one of the most conservative abortion policies in the world, Poland’s maternal mortality rate is among the lowest, having dropped drastically from the early 1990s to an even lower rate than the United States.
“The proposal [to ban abortion] had wide support among Polish women, so the protest was in no way about ‘what Polish women want,’” Phelan said. “This was a campaign funded by sources outside Poland to undermine Polish democracy and sovereignty, and this is not over.”
Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.