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Reproductive Rights Activists in Poland Prepare to Fight New Abortion Ban Proposals

It seems that the storm isn’t over just yet in Poland.

(Photo: Zhu / Flickr)

New legislative initiatives for stricter abortion laws continue to fuel the determination of participants in Poland’s “Black Protests,” who are preparing another women’s strike for October 24.

The first strike on October 3 was such a success that the controversial bill, which would have banned abortion in nearly all cases and even thrown criminal suspicion on women who experienced a miscarriage, was withdrawn. A picture of Warsaw’s Old City filled with umbrellas became symbolic of the massive protests.

But it seems that the storm isn’t over just yet. Shortly after international media celebrated Polish women for their achievement, the newly formed women’s rights movement was confronted with another development directed at drastically tightening the existing abortion law.

Shortly after the protests, the Polish government started to claim that the original bill, based on a civic initiative developed with the initial backing of the country’s ruling party and the Catholic Church, was not well thought out regarding its consequences and hence had to be dismissed. However, Jarosław Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling party PIS, immediately followed that up with a declaration that the party stands for “protection of life” and will soon present its own bill that would significantly reduce the amount of legal abortions in Poland.

In a recent interview, Kaczynski mentioned that his party will work on a solution where also “difficult pregnancies” will end with birth, so that the child can be named and baptized, even if it would be seriously malformed and would die shortly after.

Meanwhile, another legislative project by the anti-abortion organisation “Głos dla Życia” (“Voice for Life”) gathered approximately 160,000 signatures, and has been accepted to be discussed in the Parliament.

The proposal doesn’t foresee any prison sentences for women, but it would introduce higher sentences for carrying out of abortion, with an exception in cases when woman’s life is in “immediate danger.” The bill goes even further by making emergency contraception and any hormonal contraceptives that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg illegal. Like the defeated bill, this one also defines the beginning of life as the moment when female and male cells merge. In addition, the proposed legislation stipulates changes to school curricula and public institutions campaigns directed at promoting “the culture of life” and condemning abortion. Lastly, the law foresees help programs for women and families in case of “difficult pregnancies.”

Independent online publication OKO, which broke the news (the article has been shared over 18,000 times on Facebook at the moment of writing this article) speculates that the bill seems to be very much aligned with the position of the ruling party and might receive its support.

Meanwhile, the Facebook groups “Dziewuchy Dziewuchom” (Gals for Gals) and “Ogólnopolski strajk kobiet” (Poland-Wide Women’s Strike) became the coordination points for the new solidarity movement filled with discussions, news, plans and moral support. The movement has widened its focus to include the fight against contempt and violence towards women, influence of the Catholic Church in politics, and political influence in the education system.

After the plans of the ruling party became clear and the “Voice for Life” petition landed in the Parliament, the groups have been flooded by posts of women outraged at the proposal and ready to march into the streets again chanting “My body, my choice.”

The “Poland-Wide Women’s Strike – Round Two” is planned for October 24, with several thousand people on the Facebook event confirming they plan to attend.

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