Mimi Davies | Contributing Writer | Monday, 19 September 2016

Poland\\\'s Abortion Ban May Force Women To Choose Between Pregnancy Or Prison

Poland's Abortion Ban May Force Women To Choose Between Pregnancy Or Prison

The Debrief: If passed, women have a choice between their health or a prison sentence.

Christened the #CoatHangerRebellion, Poland is in the grips of an abortion revolution. Carrying coat hangers, thousands of women’s groups and human rights campaigners took to Polish and London streets yesterday, against a proposed statute outlawing abortions in almost all cases. 

The protests oppose a measure against criminalizing all terminations of pregnancy, bar when it is necessary to save a woman’s life. Debates on the amendments will begin in Polish parliament on Wednesday. 

As Europe’s most Catholic country, Poland’s already home to Europe’s strictest anti-abortion laws. Abortion is currently legal in certain emergency circumstances, but an even tougher crackdown is on the cards. If passed, the rules will introduce jail sentences of up to five years for 'the death of a conceived child.'

It potentially applies to women seeking an abortion, as well as any doctors or health professionals involved.  with the Catholic church and the Law and Justice (PiS) governing party’s backing. The new rules were drafted by prominent anti-abortion activist Mariusz Dzierzawski. Supported by the Catholic church and the Law and Justice (PiS) governing party, Dzierzawski accused abortion rights supporters of wishing to 'kill the children.' His beliefs are that neither rape nor a dangerous pregnancy justifies abortion. The proposal is supported by over 100,000 signatures and, if passed, the new anti-abortion laws would become even more restrictive than those in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. 


Shouting 'Save women, not a step further' and 'Get your rosaries off my ovaries!' protesters argued that the proposed legislation would risk women’s lives, and force victims of rape or incest to either give birth or face prison. 

Despite a 1993 law allowing terminations in cases of rape, when the mother’s or child’s life is at risk, or incest, the director of the Federation of Women and Family Planning, Krystyna Kacpura, said many Polish women were already denied legal abortions. 

'The existing law is one of the most restrictive in Europe,' she continued, '…Access to legal abortion rights is already a hard road for women.' In some regions of Poland, some hospitals and doctors have even signed conscientious objection letters refusing to perform them. 

'…Effectively we already have no legal abortions in Poland. But at least women are not yet criminalized.' The extremity of the proposed laws have triggered protests since its announcement this April, including staging walkouts during Catholic Mass and shouting down Catholic priests who spoke in favour of the proposals. 

Research by Amnesty International shows that the people paying a high price for legal restrictions on abortion is women and young girls, the price being their health, well-being and sometimes even their life.  

Since the controversy began, the European Union has begun investigating whether Polish lawmakers breached EU standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. 

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Tags: Abortion, Protests, Poland