On Monday in Poland, women went on a general strike, almost a first, asserting their right to reproduce and raise children as they wish. They will not take the kids to school, they will not do the shopping, they will not load washing machines. The guideline is: “Stay with your children, donate blood, and ask for coffee to be delivered to your bed.” A similar protest was attempted in 1975 in progressive and distant Iceland, and it paralyzed the country.
Now Polish women have attempted this strategy, as an extreme form of rebellion after the protests held Saturday and last week. Women took to the streets of Warsaw en masse, dressed in black, to protest against a proposed law banning abortion that is now in parliamentary committee.
Polish law, as a result of a compromise between church and state in 1993, prohibits abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, serious fetal malformations and serious risks to the mother’s life before the 12th week of gestation.
The proposal filed last spring in Parliament was promoted by the Catholic fundamentalist anti-abortion movement Ordo Iuris with the support of right-wing forces. It aims to cancel out these few exceptions, bringing the ban up to a cosmic absolute worthy of transcendental gnosis. A similar bill with a less restrictive regulation was boycotted, while this extremist proposal continues its process.
And so, women decided to wear punk warrior clothes, prompted by a video made by activist Angela Cekin, which has been circulating on social media since last April. That is why the hashtag of the protest in front of parliament is #BlackProtest and why tens of thousands of participants, as well as actresses and opinion leaders who have appeared on talk shows on TV, were dressed in black.
The Warsaw square where the event took place Monday was packed with people, mostly women of all ages. Some of the slogans written on the signs were: “We want to love, not to die,” “Stop the right fanatics,” “Every woman should have the right to choose,” and simply “Girls just have rights.” Barbara Nowacka, of Polish Initiative, which organized the event, shouted into the microphone, “The PiS [the conservative Law and Justice Party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who holds an absolute majority in parliament] does not pay enough attention to the views of citizens. These fanatics must be stopped.”
In the meantime, the battle of the numbers on participation is more surreal than usual. According to the Warsaw police spokesman, there were no more than 5,000 protesters on the streets Monday; according to the town hall spokesman, there were no more than 3,000. But the panoramic aerial view seems to indicate that these numbers should be multiplied at least by 10. Furthermore, the popular initiative bill “Save Women” — which was shelved in the Sejm, the lower house of Parliament — had collected more than 250,000 signatures.
Under the 1993 law, the number of legal abortions in Poland so far has fluctuated between 600 and 1,000 a year, one of the lowest figures in Europe. But feminist organizations estimate the number of abortions actually performed on Polish women fluctuates between 100,000 and 150,000 a year: either practiced clandestinely at home or privately overseas, especially in Slovak, Czech, Austrian and German clinics. Last June, foreign activists used a drone to send abortion pills to Poland. Now a Dutch NGO says it is ready to anchor a clinical ship off the coast of Gdansk.
In the law proposed by Ordo Iuris, which conservatives are threatening to approve, a woman could be sentenced to up to five years of prison for having an abortion.
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