Conflicts & War

Poland’s cities see renewed protests against abortion ban

Warsaw, Jan 29 (efe-epa).- Thousands of people took to the streets of this capital and other Polish cities Friday for a third consecutive night of protests against a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal that effectively bars abortion.

Participants in Warsaw converged on the space in front of the monumental Palace of Culture and Science, Poland’s tallest building.

Some carried posters with slogans denouncing the governing right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), while many displayed the red lightning bolt emblem of the Women’s Strike, as the movement spurred by the court decision is known.

Last October, the tribunal eliminated fetal abnormality as grounds for lawful termination of a pregnancy. Fetal defect is the cited reason for the vast majority of the roughly 2,000 legal abortions carried out annually in Poland, a nation of 37.8 million.

More than 400,000 people took part in the initial mobilization against the ruling in the fall, despite government threats to arrest protesters for violating pandemic restrictions, and the protests resumed this week after the de-facto abortion ban officially took effect.

Most of the activists on the streets of Warsaw wore masks amid warnings from the Health Ministry that the protests were contributing to the spread of Covid-19, which has claimed 36,443 lives in Poland while infecting more than 1.5 million people.

Thursday night’s demonstration was accompanied by altercations and 14 protesters were arrested, including several who entered the Constitutional Tribunal.

Poland already has one of Europe’s most-restrictive abortion laws and previous attempts by the right to put a complete stop to abortions through legislation were beaten back by protests.

This time, anti-abortion lawmakers filed a challenge to the fetal-defects exception before a tribunal where PiS-appointed judges are in the majority.

This week’s protests have drawn support from leftist groups and from the centrist main opposition Liberal Platform, led by Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.

Women’s rights organizations estimate that roughly 200,000 illegal abortions take place in Poland every year and they fear the number will grow as a result of the ban.

An opinion poll commissioned by Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza indicated that 59 percent of Poles disagreed with the controversial court ruling. EFE gc/dr

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