Reportage. A hardline abortion ban promoted by the Catholic Church is due in legislative committees in April. Students and women are leading the public protests to defeat the bill.

Poland raises pressure against clergy and lawmakers over abortion ban

While the Polish government buys time, demonstrators are organizing. Warsaw and other Polish cities rallied this week against Poland’s latest abortion bill, which aims to outlaw all voluntary abortions, even in the case of fetus malformations. The bill will be reviewed by the Family Committee and the Social Affairs Committee in the second week of April.

On March 14, a press release by the Polish Church had pushed MPs in the Sejm, Poland’s lower chamber, to speed up parliamentary works and secretly approve a controversial law presented by pro-life think tank “Zycie i Rodzina Kai Godek.”

It was a kind of Easter break after a week of demonstrations that ended with a “Black Friday,” during which, according to organizers, at least 90,000 citizens rallied to say “nie” to the bill. But the government doesn’t seem willing to backtrack on the bill, which Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the populist right Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS), allegedly really likes. “Under no circumstance is our party prepared to give up on the abortion ban in case of ‘illnesses of the fetus,’” he repeated.

It’s hard to say whether the postponement is a consequence of last week’s demonstrations. But it seems impossible to believe the government does not sense the pressure coming from the streets, given what happened two years ago. Back then, protesters opened thousands of black umbrellas during “Black Monday” demonstrators, forcing the PiS to set aside the total abortion ban.

Last Sunday were the first protests that took demonstrators in front of dioceses and archdioceses across the country. On Tuesday evening, the Sejm’s Justice Committee had approved the bill after being kickstarted by the Polish Episcopate’s remarks and by the PiS.

Over the course of the week, demonstrations spread to other places. Uniwersytet Warszawski students declared they were ready to hold a sit-in at the university buildings if Parliament approved the bill.

“It’s important to learn that attacks to women’s rights, together with the government’s xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration stances, were able to mobilize young Polish women,” Ntalia Pancewicz of OSK (Ogolnopolski Strajk Kobiet) told il manifesto. OSK continues to play a key role organizing rallies, even in smaller Polish towns.

Men joined the demonstrations on Friday too, even if many fathers stayed home to look after children so that mothers could take part.

The worst-case scenario has it that abortion will only be legal in Poland if it threatens the mother’s life, or in cases of rape. The two cases represent less than 10 percent of the total number of abortion operations legally performed every year.

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