Poland MPs Vote Down Legislation for Complete Abortion Ban

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 24, 2011   |   11:40AM   |   Warsaw, Poland

The Parliament in Poland has voted down legislation that would strengthen the nation’s existing pro-life laws by instituting a complete ban on abortions in the Catholic eastern European nation.

Abortions are already prohibited in Poland, except in the cases of rape, incest, or the baby having severe physical or mental disabilities, or if a woman’s life is endangered. The bill, which was supported by a massive petition campaign by pro-life advocates in Poland, was voted down by the Sejm’s Commission on Health and Social Policy.

“It’s bad news two-thirds of MPs have declared themselves in favor of killing sick children”, Mariusz Dzierzawski, from Poland’s Stop Abortion group, told the Church’s Catholic information agency, KAI. “This will be verified at the next election, when we’ll seek to make life a key campaign issue. If the MPs don’t want to support life, we’ll have to  change the MPs.”

Under Poland’s political system, organizers needed to collect 100,000 signatures within three months to place the bill before Parliament.  They succeeded, however, in obtaining 600,000 signatures in just two weeks. In July, the lower house of Poland’s parliament voted 254-151 to support the bill, but it needed two more votes in the lower chamber before it moved to the Senate.

According to an AFP report, members of the Polish parliament turned back an effort by left-wing legislators to stop progress on the bill and, instead, they sent it to a committee for further work. Members of the Sejm voted 254-151 against the communist Democratic Left Alliance’s motion to reject the legislation and, in a subsequent vote, lawmakers sent the bill to committee for finalization.

The PRO Foundation organized a grassroots campaign to lobby MPs to support the legislation and the nation’s Catholic bishops have also played an integral role in advancing the legislation. The legislation is the result of a citizen-led initiative drive in which sponsors collected the signatures.

Grégor Puppinck, of the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), wrote a column in July saying the bill would comply with international law.

He said he is “of the opinion that though Poland’s ban on abortion contradicts the dominant opinion in the Western world, it would not constitute a breach of International and European law.”

“Current Polish law provides three exceptions for abortions: abortion is legal until the twelfth week of pregnancy where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or health (medical abortion); when prenatal tests or other medical findings indicate a high risk that the foetus would be severely and irreversibly damaged or suffering from an incurable life-threatening disease (eugenic abortion); or there are strong grounds for believing that the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest,” he explained. “These exceptions are known for being routinely abused, not only in a restrictive way – creating extra difficulties of access to legal abortion – as reported in several cases before the ECHR, but also (and more often) in a broad way, such as aborting children for a non life-threatening disease.”

The Nazi invasion in World War II brought legalized abortions to Poland and the situation was exacerbated under Communist rule by the Soviet Union. In 1993, a free Poland put the current pro-life laws in place but did not ban all abortions.

A survey conducted earlier this month demonstrates a shift in the population’s attitudes about abortion and showed 65% of Poles agree that the law “should unconditionally protect the life of all children since conception,” and 76% of those aged 15 to 24 favor total protection for unborn children. Some 57 percent of those aged 55 to 70 agree that a ban on abortions is appropriate.