Cheated. Ashamed. Devastated. These are just some of the many deeply rooted emotions of the thousands of Poles protesting against the strict abortion laws by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party.
Protests occurred across the whole of Poland on Saturday the 23rd of October, including in the cities of Warsaw, Krakow, and Poznan, after a ruling which determined that the abortion of malformed foetuses is incompatible with the constitution.
Instead of providing safe access to abortions for all women, PiS has had the indecency to cause more suffering to the mother by forcing her to continue with a pregnancy even when the child has no chance of surviving.
Even prior to this most recent ruling, Poland already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. The ruling on October 22nd declared that abortions will only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or if there is a clear threat to the mother’s life. This is an attack on women’s human rights, and comes after PiS decided to withdraw from the Istanbul convention which protects women against domestic violence.
No government has the right to dictate what women should or shouldn’t do with their own bodies. Protesters are chanting: ‘Nie ma zgody!’, which translates in English to ‘There is no consent!’. Though not everyone may agree with the often controversial concept of abortion, it is a human right for women to have the option to access them safely. Otherwise, ‘backstreet abortions’ are inadvertently encouraged, and these are notorious for threatening the lives of both the mother and her unborn child, and often involve ‘tools’ such as coat-hangers.
Furthermore, these unsafe abortions can damage the mother’s body beyond repair, preventing the possibility of her ever becoming pregnant in the future. Women may also fly out to neighbouring countries where abortions are performed. Women’s groups have estimated that as many as 200,000 abortions are carried out illegally or abroad yearly. By allowing abortions to be conducted by doctors, they could be far safer for women.
Even though Poland is a heavily Roman Catholic country, polls suggest that there is a clear majority against making the abortion law stricter. Many modern Poles believe, as the philosopher Kierkegaard suggested, that people should not follow faith and institutions blindly, but that they must think for themselves. Faith is beyond following the Church, but having your own personal relationship with God, whether one chooses to have one or not. It is not for a person, religious institution, or a government to judge what an individual chooses to do with their own body. Whether their decision ends up being a mistake or the best decision of their lives – it is nobody’s place to criticise them.
The day after the law was passed, protesters gathered in Warsaw near the home of Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who heads the PiS party. Some threw stones while trying to push through the cordon around the house. Police then resorted to the use of pepper spray and physical force against the protestors.
As Poles join in solidarity in Poland, citizens living away from their homeland have also shown support for their rights. The red lightning image has become the symbol of the protests which was heavily featured on signs, body parts, and face-masks. In London, hundreds of people marched in front of the Polish embassy to chant their anger towards the recent ruling.
Surprisingly, London police blocked out the road to traffic to allow for the protest to continue instead of using force against the protestors. Candles were also placed at the door of the embassy to mark the death of a fundamental human right along with hangers to symbolise that Poles wished to ‘abort’ their government.
Even with the current situation that is separating the State and its people, the Polish public is joining in solidarity to fight the unjust war that they have been forced to face. They will continue to fight until justice prevails.