Polish lawmakers reject proposal to ease abortion restrictions

January 11, 2018

Poland's parliament rejected proposals to ease strict abortion restrictions Wednesday, a year after tens of thousands of black-clad women flooded the streets to prevent the Catholic country from adopting harsher laws.

The Polish legislature, which is controlled by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, also signalled a willingness to further tighten the legislation, which is already some of the most restrictive in Europe.

Lawmakers voted down one draft bill that would have liberalised the law while also sending for further consideration a separate proposal to prohibit the procedure for foetuses with deformities, which critics say would amount to a total ban.

Current legislation, passed in 1993, bans all abortions except in cases of rape or incest, if the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother or if the foetus is severely deformed.

There are around 1,000 legally performed abortions a year in the country of 38 million people, though women's groups estimate that 100,000 to 150,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.

According to Kaja Godek, one of the initiators of the "Zatrzymaj aborcje" (Stop Abortion) proposal, deformation of the foetus was the reason behind 96 percent of the legal abortions carried out in Poland in 2016.

It is thought the proposed ban on this type of procedure has a good chance of passing.

'Eugenic abortion'

Over 100 protesters on both sides of the abortion divide rallied in front of parliament during the debate.

"I'm thinking very seriously about emigrating. I really like my country, but the political climate has changed so much that I can not imagine giving birth and raising my children here," Kamila Radecjka, 32, told AFP.

Around 15 activists favouring the ban projected images of the bloody bodies of aborted foetuses on a large screen with the sound of crying babies blaring from loudspeakers.

"Abortion is the killing of an innocent child," said activist Maciej Wiewiorka.

Activists want to ban what they call "eugenic abortion", or terminations carried out to eliminate foetuses with deformities, such as in pregnancies where Down syndrome has been detected during pre-natal screening.

Godek told AFP that her group's proposal was signed by 830,000 people in two months.

President Andrzej Duda, who is close to the Catholic Church, vowed in November to sign the initiative into law if it is adopted "in order to abolish the right to kill children with Down syndrome".

The proposal is less restrictive than the one that was scrapped after tens of thousands of women dressed in black across the country in 2016.

That initiative, which was tabled by the ultra-conservative Ordo Iuris association, called for jail sentences of up to five years for doctors and others taking part in illegal abortions, including the women themselves—though judges could waive their punishment.

'Huge suffering'

Parliament's vote late Wednesday rejected the "Let's Save Women 2017" citizen's initiative to liberalise the abortion law.

The draft had sought to allow abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy for psychological and social reasons, as well as providing over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill.

"We never expected PiS deputies to behave differently," said Barbara Nowacka, a left-wing politician and women's rights activist who presented the pro-choice initiative in parliament

"What's worse is that they are going to work on a draft law that forces to... give birth to beings that are very often destined to die in huge suffering," Nowicka said of the draft that seeks to ban abortion of deformed foetuses.

Since coming to power in 2015, the PiS government has put an end to public funding for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and made the prescription-only.

Women's rights groups also point to the fact that many doctors and even entire hospitals use a conscience clause to avoid carrying out legal abortions.

According to the Federation for Women and Family Planning, only 47 Polish hospitals carried out legal abortions in 2016, or 10 percent of all of the authorised establishments.

Explore further: Poland's abortion debate back in parliament

Related Stories

Poland's abortion debate back in parliament

January 10, 2018
Poland's abortion debate was back on the agenda on Wednesday, more than a year after tens of thousands of black-clad women successfully took to the streets in the Catholic country to stop the tightening of a law that is already ...

Thousands of Poles rally to defend women's rights

October 4, 2017
Several thousand black-clad women took to streets across Poland on Tuesday to defend their reproductive rights, which they say are being curtailed under the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government.

Polish govt wants to limit access to morning after pill

February 15, 2017
Poland's conservative government said Wednesday it wants to restrict access to the morning-after pill in the devoutly Catholic country, which already has one of the EU's most restrictive abortion laws.

Conservative Poles rally for near-total ban on abortions

May 15, 2016
Anti-abortion groups held marches across Poland Sunday in support of calls for a near total ban on pregnancy terminations in the staunchly Catholic country, where abortions are already heavily restricted.

Polish parliament rejects abortion ban after mass protests

October 6, 2016
Poland's parliament on Thursday rejected an abortion ban after women staged massive nationwide protests in the devoutly Catholic nation, where the law is already among the most restrictive in Europe.

Polish women hold nation-wide strike against abortion ban

October 3, 2016
Tens of thousands of black-clad women protested across Poland Monday against a proposed near-total abortion ban in the devoutly Catholic country, where the law is already among the most restrictive in Europe.

Recommended for you

Study compares athlete and truck driver, identical twins

July 20, 2018
When it comes to being fit, are genes or lifestyle—nature or nurture—more important? Researchers at San Francisco State University, CSU Fullerton and Cal Poly, Pomona removed the nature part of the equation by studying ...

Secondhand smoke causing thousands of still births in developing countries

July 20, 2018
The study reveals that more than 40% of all pregnant women in Pakistan are exposed to secondhand smoke—causing approximately 17,000 still births in a year.

Eating iron-fortified grain improves students' attention, memory

July 18, 2018
Adolescent students in a rural school in India who consumed an iron-biofortified version of the grain pearl millet exhibited improved attention and memory compared to those who consumed conventional pearl millet, according ...

Vaping tied to blood clots—in mice

July 18, 2018
A new study involving mice raises another concern about the danger of e-cigarettes in humans after experiments showed that short-term exposure to the device's vapors appeared to increase the risk of clot formation.

Lowering hospitals' Medicare costs proves difficult

July 18, 2018
A payment system that provides financial incentives for hospitals that reduce health-care costs for Medicare patients did not lower costs as intended, according to a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine ...

People who tan in gyms tan more often, and more addictively, than others, new research shows

July 18, 2018
Gyms are places people go to get healthier. But nearly half the gyms in the U.S. contain a potentially addictive carcinogen—tanning beds, report UConn researchers in the July 18 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.