Women’s groups stage protest during first reading of harsh anti-abortion bill in Polish parliament

The bill which was voted down in its first reading would have equated abortion with murder and led to prison terms of up to 25 years for those who underwent abortion and those who assisted them

December 05, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
A protest outside the Polish parliament. Photo: OKO.press

On December 1, Wednesday, women’s rights groups in Poland protested in front of the Polish parliament Sejm during the first reading of a draft anti-abortion law proposed by right-wing groups. While progressive sections protested on the call of the National Women’s Strike, the supporters of the bill from the Stop Abortion group also gathered in front of the building in Warsaw. The bill was submitted to parliament as a citizens’ initiative by the conservative group Pro-Right to Life Foundation. It equated abortion with murder and provided for long prison sentences for those who accessed abortion and those who assisted them. The bill was rejected on December 2 with all of the opposition and major sections with the incumbent conservative coalition voting against it while a section of MPs from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party supported the bill.

Women’s rights groups and other progressive sections in Poland have been resisting attempts by conservative organizations and the Law and Justice (PiS) party-led government to impose restrictions on abortion, especially since the near ban imposed by the country’s Constitutional Court. The court’s infamous ruling in October 2020 to outlaw abortions in case of fetal defects had triggered widespread protests from in Poland and across the world. On November 6, this year, tens of thousands of people across the country protested the death of a 30-year-old woman, Izabela, from pregnancy-related complications in Pszczyna. The protesters blamed the strict anti-abortion directive imposed by the Polish Constitutional Court for Izabela’s death

OKO.press pointed out that the bill proposed by the Pro-Right to Life Foundation is not an amendment to the anti-abortion law but to the Criminal Code. “It  equates abortion without exception with murder, thus introducing penalties for abortion as for murder – from 5 to 25 years in prison and even life imprisonment. Both doctors and mothers are to be punished – in the case of the latter, however, the court may extraordinarily reduce the punishment or refrain from imposing it.”

The Left-wing party Razem stated that the proponents of the anti-abortion bill wanted to punish women for life. It said that even a woman who underwent abortion in the aftermath of a rape could face a prison term. “This is the kind of Poland fanatics want for women,” the party said.