Pro-choice protests sweep through Poland
by Agnieszka Szmit-Morze and Andy Zebrowski in Poland
Protests are getting bigger every day (Pic: Workers» Democracy/Facebook)
An explosion of daily mass demonstrations for abortion rights has swept dozens of towns and cities across Poland.
People are outraged following Thursday’s cruel ruling by the constitutional tribunal which has banned abortions where there are severe foetal defects.
This means that a woman will now be forced to continue a pregnancy even if the foetus has half its skull missing and will die within hours after being born.
Outraged protesters are calling this obscene torture.
In 2016 protests won a famous victory against plans for a harsher abortion law.
And now thousands of women and men are again taking to the streets.
On Friday—the second day of the protests—at least 15,000 marched in Warsaw, and around 10,000 people in Poznan and Wroclaw. The numbers are increasing every day.
Doctors are facing prison terms of up to three years and they will be even more frightened than they often are today to conduct routine antenatal care.
Poland already has some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the world.
Almost all legal abortions in Poland are currently performed due to foetal defects.
Last year of 1,100 legal abortions as many as 1,074 were performed for this reason—almost 98 percent of all terminations.
Around 150,000-200,000 women a year are forced to go abroad or have illegal, expensive abortions.
This is not enough for the anti-abortion fanatics.
Kaja Godek, from the Stop Abortion campaign and the main spokesperson for harsher laws has already said that she wants a ban on abortions performed following rape.
And all this is taking place at a time of almost daily record numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths.
The government has restricted demonstration numbers to ten people, which is being completely ignored by protesters.
People are worried about the pandemic, but the outrage is stronger. And organisers stress the need to wear masks and socially distance.
Even by the elitist, class-biased standards of Western judiciaries, Poland’s constitutional tribunal is a joke.
It has been stuffed illegally with supporters of the governing ultra-conservative Law and Justice party (PiS).
It takes its orders from PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski who wants to show he can be as extreme on abortion, LGBT+ rights and racism as anybody else on the right, including fascists.
He also continually needs to shore up the support of the reactionary Catholic church hierarchy.
These so-called experts on women’s reproductive rights have already expressed their gratitude for the constitutional tribunal’s ban.
But around 80 percent of the population is opposed to a harsher abortion law. Even 58 percent of PiS voters are against the new measures.
Allowing the tribunal to decide the issue by the backdoor instead of parliament is a sign of government cowardice and uncertainty.
They hoped the coronavirus would prevent protests. They miscalculated.
The atmosphere on the demonstrations is one of passionate outrage and steely determination. Slogans include, «Our bodies, our choice» and «Fuck PiS».
Women are so angry that in Warsaw they marched for miles to shout slogans outside the constitutional tribunal building, PiS headquarters and Kaczynski’s house.
On Friday they also marched across the city to the prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s house.
Taxi drivers blocked the roads as part of the demonstration and ambulance workers joined in. On the first two days, the demonstrations in the capital lasted for hours finishing at 2am and midnight respectively.
The government is scared. The police have not attempted to clear the streets of protesters who are in breach of coronavirus regulations. But they have used tear gas on dozens of people.
What next? The daily protests are continuing and already workplace action being called for.
These initiatives and greater numbers on the streets are key to overturning this ban and then going further to win abortion on demand. Unions must be pushed to support the campaign.
More than once in these days we have heard speakers and demonstrators yelling «This is war!”.
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