Abortion ban in Poland: here we go again….
Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Abortion is possible in only 3 cases: 1. When the foetus has irreversible damages, 2. When the life of the mother is endangered, and 3. When the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape. Already in 2016, the Polish government with a majority of the conservative party PiS (Law and Justice) tried to limit reproductive rights and ban abortion – it passed a draft civic bill, which banned abortion completely, and passed it on for further processing. In September and October 2016, thousands of women in Poland and abroad took to the streets and PiS withdrew the draft bill. It was submitted again by a representative of an anti-choice organisation, Kaja Godek, in 2018 – but in a slightly different form. This time the bill stipulated that the existing abortion ban would be extended to cases where the fetus has irreversible damages – and this reason represents 98 percent of all legally performed abortions in Poland. This is, effectively, a total ban on abortion. The project, however, landed in a parliamentary drawer, as PiS feared further protests by women.
According to the Polish law, the first reading of a citizens’ bills submitted in the previous parliamentary term will take place no later than six months after the date of the first meeting of the new Parliament. That date is 12th May, and thus, the last parliamentary sitting in April was chosen in accordance with the law. Even if this seems to be an awful time to decide on the fundamental rights of millions of Polish women, the referral of the draft bill concerning the ban on abortion is consistent with the legislative process.
The Polish parliament is set to discuss the abortion ban draft bill and a draft bill on the ban on sex education during a sitting next week on 15th-16th April 2020.
Furthermore, sexual and reproductive rights are at risk because certain health services are more difficult to access due to restrictions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries reacted to the crisis by relaxing the legislation to allow access to abortion pills at home. The demand for self-managed, early-term medical abortion is something that pro-choice campaigners have already been arguing for over the years. In Poland, we are currently observing the reverse: instead of relaxing the law, protecting the citizen’s access to healthcare and allowing easier access to abortion, it has now become even more difficult to obtain a legal and safe termination. The current situation is affecting those less privileged in our society the most, as they lack the financial resources to access abortion services abroad, or in the ‘’underground’’. Therefore, we demand the legalization of self-managed early-term medical abortion, as recommended by the WHO, and to make it accessible and free of charge or affordabe to those who need it.
The coronavirus outbreak has crippled global protest movements. The pandemic is spreading fast, and we need to flatten the curve. Mass public events are cancelled in most places and a ban on public gatherings makes it impossible to organise a demonstration. It limits our possibilities to resist this draconic abortion ban. It also makes us scared and insecure about what might happen. Street protests were our strongest tool of resistance in the fight for safe and legal abortion. Now we are isolated in our homes – but we are not alone and we will keep fighting.
If the anti-abortion bill is to be passed by the PiS party, women in Poland will lose their fundamental rights. It is already difficult for women in Poland to get an abortion, to obtain contraceptive pills. The situation is equally dramatic when it comes to domestic violence – the new “Anti-crisis shield” bill, introduced recently, does not mention this problem at all. Instead, it concentrates on limiting civic rights and ways to allow the government to run presidential elections in May 2020. Elections, in which only one candidate has the right and possibility to run a campaign – and that is the current president, who is devoted to the PiS party.
We cannot allow this to happen!
Let us stand in solidarity with Polish women, again! Especially in this time of an epidemic, when people cannot fully express their opinions, new ways of resistance and solidarity have to be found. Solidarity beyond borders is crucial and necessary.