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Reportage. Under the proposed law, abortion would only be permitted if the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy was the result of rape. Polish clergy have given the bill a boost after mass protests seemed to shut it down.

Poland is on the verge of a near-total abortion ban

Abortion will only be allowed in two cases in Poland under a new bill up for vote in Parliament: when a pregnancy threatens the mother’s life, and when there is a justified belief it is the result of rape. The Justice Committee of the Sejm, the Polish lower chamber, approved harsh abortion measures Monday night, banning abortion in cases including fetus malformations.

The text was promoted by the pro-life group Zycie i Rodzina Kai Godek, then approved in its first reading in the Sejm in January. It remained on stand-by until last week, when the Polish episcopate intervened to speed up the legislative process. “Bishops ask Parliament to pick up works on the Stop Aborcji parliamentary bill immediately,” reads a press release the Polish church published last Wednesday. The initiative caught even the populist right Law and Justice (PiS) government off guard. The government then agreed to speed up the approval process for the new bill.

This is the first time the Polish clergy has intervened on abortion directly with an official note — and the move proved successful.

Thousands had demonstrated against a complete abortion ban during the Black Monday protests in spring 2016, and the bishops had decided not to intervene. Then, Polish women rallied with dark umbrellas, and their sheer number convinced the PiS to stop working on the bill. Inspired by those demonstrations, the Osk movement (Ogolnopolski Strajk Kobiet) organized new rallies near the headquarters of religious power.

On Sunday, people demonstrated in front of the dioceses of 16 Polish cities. Yesterday demonstrations spilled over into smaller towns, such as Oliwa, near Danzig. This time, women aren’t waving black umbrellas, but hangers, a symbol of clandestine abortions. Poland used to have more liberal abortion policies under communism than it has now.

The bill is as close to a complete abortion ban as you can get. Notably, Polish gynaecologists can already resort to conscientious objection to refuse performing an abortion.

Polish data indicate that nine abortions in 10 happen because of malformations in the fetus.

The bill will have to go through the Families Committee and the Social Affairs Committee before being voted on by the Sejm.

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