On October 22nd protests in Poland erupted due to a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Tribunal that imposed a near-total abortion ban. The ruling stated that a pregnancy could no longer be terminated due to fetal irregularities. More than 100,000 people marched in the streets of Warsaw in protest of the announcement. Due to the massive demonstrations, Poland has delayed the implementation of the ban. A former judge at the Constitutional Tribunal, Ewa Letowska, deemed the government’s delay of the ban illegal.
The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has made an effort to speak with protesters. Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, is a supporter of PiS which is the national conservative political party. He suggested a new proposal that would permit abortion if birth defects were life-threatening, but not for other conditions. Before the Constitutional Tribunal made this announcement, Poland allowed for abortion under four different circumstances: in the case of fetal abnormalities, a threat to the mother’s health, incest, or an instance where the pregnancy was non-consensual. Polish families do not receive government support if they have disabled children, leaving parents on their own once the child is born.
Support for both Duda and the governing party has plummeted since the protests have started. The Parliament intended on considering the President’s proposal last month, but has since been postponed to mid-November. A member of the governing party stated that the session has been postponed due to the pandemic. An opposing lawmaker has said otherwise, stating that the session was postponed due to the protests.
The Polish government has been under fire due to other issues and protestors have expressed their built up anger at the rallies. They accused the government of destruction of the Polish democracy and targeted the government for the way the country handled the pandemic. Experts accuse the government of taking control of the judiciary as well.
The protests have not remained peaceful. Protestors have disrupted church services and confronted priests, ultimately challenging the Catholic Church. The Church itself is a close ally to the government, and is a staple of Polish society after supporting their struggle against communism. Protestors have been met by hundreds of police officers, wielding tear-gas and arresting protestors. Additionally, Conservative activists have expressed their anger using pepper spray and flares.
Overall, examiners say that the proposal has slim chances of getting the support it needs from lawmakers. The proposition does not gratify either side of the debate; conservatives feel it does not take enough measure against abortion, and protestors feel it is too harsh. The protests will likely continue until lawmakers have made their decision.