Poland already has some of the harshest abortion laws in place EuropeOn Thursday, a constitutional court ruled that one of the few exceptions to the ban – severe fetal malformations – should be illegal. These cases, dubbed “abortion of the offspring” by hard-line Catholic anti-abortion activists, accounted for nearly all abortions performed legally in Poland.
The Constitutional Court found that abortion in cases where “prenatal examinations or other medical indications indicate a high probability of severe irreversible fetal weakness or terminal illness that threatens life” is a violation of the constitutional right to life. The country’s law, popular justice and socially conservative government, which has been accused of undermining judicial independence, mobilized the court with loyalists.
Judgment came Poland It is grappling with the second wave of coronavirus cases and restrictions limiting the possibility of mass protests. On Friday, Prime Minister Matthews Murawiecki announced the closure of restaurants and bars for a period of two weeks, and public gatherings will be limited to five people, as injuries recorded a new daily record of more than 13,600.
Despite the ban on gatherings, there were a number of protests planned on Friday evening and the weekend, with many assuring that they would follow the divergence measures. On Thursday evening, protesters gathered in Warsaw outside the home of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the powerful Deputy Prime Minister and the theorists of the Law and Justice Party. Police used pepper spray against protesters and arrested 15 people.
In Lodz, a “funeral for women’s rights” was planned on Friday evening, while protesters promised to gather in Warsaw again. “In a few days, hell will begin for women in this country,” he said in describing a Facebook protest event organized in Gdansk this weekend, in which participants were encouraged to block major traffic intersections.
Every year, thousands of Polish women seeking an abortion are forced to travel to neighboring countries. In previous years, attempts to tighten draconian legislation had already led to a massive protest movement, with tens of thousands of women dressed in black marching through major Polish cities. Surveys showed that while society was divided over liberalizing abortion, only a small minority supported further stricter rules, and the Law and Justice Party government backed away from supporting tougher restrictions after protests in 2016.
“The government evaded the essence of democracy – broad public debate and consultations – and imposed a ban on such a back door to abortion, using the Affiliate Constitutional Court,” said Zuzana Rudzynka-Ploszcz, a candidate for the position of Human Rights Ombudsman in Poland. It has the support of more than 1,000 NGOs, but was banned by Parliament, dominated by the Law and Justice Party.
The consequences will include more human tragedies and the rapid growth of underground miscarriages. The ruling will negatively affect the most vulnerable. In all likelihood, it will divide Poland even further.
The decision also sparked criticism from abroad. Dunia Mijatovi, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, described it as a “sad day for women’s rights”.
However, church leaders welcomed the move. Marek Jodrasovsky, Archbishop of Krakow, expressed his “great appreciation for the courage” of the judges at the court.