Poland Parliament Defeats Abortion Ban, Pro-Abortion Bill

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 2, 2011   |   10:47AM   |   Warsaw, Poland

The parliament in Poland has defeated legislation that would strengthen the nation’s existing pro-life laws by instituting a complete ban on abortions in the Catholic eastern European nation. It also defeated a bill promoting abortions.

Despite significant grassroots support, Polish MPs defeated the abortion ban by 191 votes to 186. 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 one of two bills MPs considered.

A second bill, promoting abortion, contraception and sex education was defeated on a 369-31 vote.

W. A. Krotoski, M.D., of Matercare International, an organizations for Catholic doctors worldwide, told LifeNews his organizations is disappointed the pro-life bill was defeated.

He said the Catholic doctors in his group “announce our disappointment on the occasion of the Parliament of Poland having voted to deny support very significant legislation recognizing [pro-life] principles.”

“The new legislation, consisting of four short articles that would have ensured legal protection of all human life in Poland from conception (fertilization) onward, was based on the incontrovertible fact that human life begins at that moment, and, like each of our own individual lives, is deserving of love, protection and the right to live,” he said. “For many years, the practice of abortion has had a gravely negative impact on women, causing them physical and emotional harm, and on society, to lower respect for human life and causing demographic implosion.”

“The legislation would have provided untold benefits for Poland and its future, and would likely have paved the way for similar legislative reform (which is neutral regarding creed, color or physical health) in other European countries. The importance of voting for the protection of future generations of Poles cannot be understated,” Krotoski continued. “We are delighted at the 186 votes in favor, and sincerely thank the Polish parliament for restoring respect for human life in its most vulnerable state.”

Other pro-life advocates also bemoaned the vote.

“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.

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.