COVID-19 is Destroying Advancements in Women’s Rights

During these uncertain times of isolation, it has been devastating to watch the world lose lives along with rights. The parliament in Poland discussed the ban of abortions of foetuses with serious abnormalities along with other abortions. Poland’s abortion laws are among the strictest in Europe due to their dense Catholic population, allowing abortions only in instances of rape, incest, if the mother’s life is in risk, or if the foetus is seriously compromised. 

The Catholic Church argue that abortion is morally wrong because it is murder. But when does life start? At conception? At 6 months during the pregnancy? At birth? The Bible states, ‘I knit you together in your mother’s womb’. This suggests that life begins at conception. However, it could be argued that God creates a person whilst they are in their mother’s womb, adding to their character as they develop over the nine-month-period. Thus, aborting means one is interfering with the work of God. Hence, by aborting a baby, one is committing murder. 

However, what is up for question is not religion but the right to have the option of an abortion – the advancement of rights that women (and many men) for decades have fought so hard for. In taking advantage of the pandemic situation, conservative politicians of the Polish government have prevented their opponents from organising mass street protests of passing of the abortion bill, first put forward in 2016. 

Despite public gatherings being banned, people still walked the streets of Warsaw, Poznań and Kraków in protest, (standing 2 metres apart), for their basic human rights in the Strajk Kobiet women’s strike to fight this ‘Polish hell’, in March earlier this year. After such a rich history of oppression, you would hope that an oppressive Polish government was a thing of the past. Yet if these harsh abortion laws are passed, then not much will change. It is disappointing, and as a Pole myself, to see these laws restricting women’s rights after human rights were restricted for a long time, notably during the Second World War and Communism. 

Passing this anti-abortion bill will bring Poland back to a time when rights were restricted and citizens had to fight every day for basic needs. As naturally stubborn people, Poles will not back down for the justice of their rights. It is this mentality which helped bring down Communism in Poland, and it will not be stopped by coronavirus, with virtual protests online alongside the in-person protests.

Poland is not alone in considering changing its abortion laws during the coronavirus pandemic. Within at least seven US states such as Alaska, Kentucky and Indiana, politicians introduced bans on abortion citing public health concerns. In my opinion, women should have the right to have the choice of abortion, whether or not you agree with the practices of abortion. It is a human right that women, just as men, should have the right over their bodies. As a result women should have the choice of abortion, but they should choose life unless there are circumstances that make it difficult to choose life such as rape, or financial difficulties. 

Despite the laws that govern this issue, abortions are still taking place whether they are legal or accepted. If abortions cannot occur in a safe environment, like those conducted by a doctor, people end up taking matters into their own hands through extremely dangerous and often fatal backstreet abortions. Surely, it is better and far safer to legalise abortion to prevent adult women from dying from backstreet abortions? If Poland passes an anti-abortion bill, then more Polish women will travel abroad for abortions than they already do. In these quarantine times, travelling abroad for abortions has become extremely difficult due to imposed travel restrictions, leading these women to take mattersinto their own hands if no safer options are available.

As men do not have the stress or risk of pregnancy, less stigma should be placed upon women who consider abortion in their lifetime. Men, who mostly hold office in Poland, should not be the ones to pass or withhold bills on abortion. The process should be made easier for women in which abortion is their last hope – such as if a 16-year-old girl falls pregnant and her parents will not support her or her baby. An example such as this demonstrates that if such a young girl has this baby, she will have nothing to provide this baby with meaning that both their qualities of life will be severely diminished. This is an extremely sad situation, but what is such a young girl to do? She is herself still a child so how should she be expected to raise her child with no financial aid? 

No two people have completely the same morals. We should be able to respect people’s personal choices and how they determine to live their lives. Ultimately, it is not for us to make judgements about people’s personal decisions which do not affect society as a whole. 

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