Globe Live Media, Thursday, January 28, 2021
The Polish government imposed a near-total ban on abortions, including the termination of pregnancies with fetal defects, a major blow to choice advocates in one of the most devout Catholic countries in Europe.
The unexpected announcement that the ruling would take effect on Wednesday sparked protests across the country. This despite the ban on meetings due to covid-19 restrictions. On Thursday, the government extended sanitary restrictions for two more weeks, until February 14.
More demonstrations against the ruling are planned for this Thursday and Friday in the capital Warsaw and in cities across the country.
The ruling, which was handed down by the Polish Constitutional Court in October, states that abortions can only be allowed in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.
That announcement sparked weeks of mass protests, some of the largest the country had seen since the Solidarity movement of the 1980s, which helped end the communist regime, analysts say.
Abortion has emerged as one of the most divisive issues since the Law and Justice Party (PiS) took office in 2015, promising poorer, older and less educated Poles a return to a traditional society mixed with generous policies of well-being, Reuters reported.
The court’s verdict was published in the official gazette late Wednesday.
“This idiotic ruling will not prevent abortions,” said Cezary Jasiński, a 23-year-old student, standing in front of the Constitutional Court building in central Warsaw.
Protests against the abortion law
Last year’s protests quickly morphed into an eruption of anger against the government, particularly among young people, suggesting that the PiS may face a new challenge from new voters in the years to come.
On Wednesday, officials said the government would now focus on helping parents of disabled children, although both the PiS and its centrist predecessors have been accused by critics of not doing enough in that regard.
“The state can no longer take a life from you just because someone is sick, disabled, in poor health,” said PiS legislator Bartlomiej Wroblewski.
The party denies criticism from the opposition of having influenced the court, called the Constitutional Court. It is one of the judicial bodies that the PiS reviewed during the reforms that, according to the European Union, have politicized the courts.
“No law-abiding government should respect this ruling,” Borys Budka, leader of Poland’s largest opposition party, the centrist Civic Platform, told reporters.
Budka criticized the leader of PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, on Twitter: “By setting fire to Poland, he wants to cover up the traces of the defeat of the Government in the fight against covid, the failure of the vaccination program and the drama of the businessmen. He will not escape responsibility.
Access to abortion has declined even without legislative restrictions, as more doctors refuse to perform abortions on religious grounds and many women seek abortions abroad.
In a justification published Wednesday, the court left open the possibility for Parliament to regulate some circumstances covered by the law.
Marek Suski, a PiS lawmaker, said the party would consider implementing new rules that could make it possible to exclude the most extreme fetal deformities. But political commentators say consensus between the PiS and its arch-conservative ruling allies would be difficult to achieve.
“In cases where the fetus does not have a skull or does not have the ability to live outside the uterus, there must be a choice. We will work on this,” Suski told public radio.
Opinion polls have shown some decline in PiS’s popularity in recent months, but an opinion poll by government-affiliated pollster CBOS showed it fell back to 35% this month, from 30% in October. PiS and its two small parliamentary allies won reelection, in 2019, with a 44% share of the vote.
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