Two top Polish officials announced last week that they are backing a citizen-lead measure to ban abortions completely in the European nation.
The citizen bill is gaining attention after the horrific story of a late-term baby who allegedly was born alive after a failed abortion attempt at a Warsaw hospital and screamed for an hour as it was left to die.
In Poland, abortion currently is legal in cases of rape, life or health of the mother or severe fetal deformities. The new measure, which has support from the Catholic Church and the Polish Federation of Pro-Life Movements, would make abortion illegal except to save the mother’s life.
Poland Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told Radio Poland on Thursday that she supports the citizen bill, which needs 100,000 signatures before it can be considered by the legislature.
The measure would make it illegal to perform abortions and would punish abortionists with up to five years in jail, instead of the current maximum of two years, according to Yahoo News.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland, said he also plans to follow the Catholic leaders’ call to pass the measure. According to Reuters, Kaczynski said he will not force his party to vote on the measure, but he is “convinced that a vast majority of the caucus, or perhaps all of it, will back the proposal.”
On Sunday, the Catholic churches in Poland read a statement by the bishops in support of the bill. According to the Catholic news group The Tablet:
The bishops’ statement, read in churches on 3 April, said Poland’s 1993 law, which restricts abortions to cases of rape, incest, severe foetal damage or threats to a woman’s life, could not be sustained and should be replaced by a total ban.
“Catholics’ position on this is clear, and unchangeable. One needs to protect every person’s life from conception to natural death,” they said.
“We ask the lawmakers and the government to initiate the legislation.”
In response, abortion activists organized protests on Sunday outside of the Polish parliament in Warsaw. Reuters reports the pro-abortion protesters chanted “Keep your hands off the uterus” and “My body, my business.” They claimed the measure would lead to more illegal, back-alley abortions and would force more women to travel to other countries for abortions.
Marta Nowak, one of the protesters, said, “Even Iran’s abortion laws are more liberal than this proposal, that’s why we must protest.”
The left-wing Together Party organized the protest, according to Radio Poland.
Pro-lifers in Poland argue that the current abortion law also is leading to discrimination against people with disabilities. Reports indicate that an abortion was attempted on the 24-week Warsaw baby because of a Down syndrome diagnosis. Abortions for cases of Down syndrome and other disabilities currently are legal up until 24 weeks of pregnancy in Poland.
In 2014, pro-life Polish journalist Natalia Dueholm wrote at LifeNews about another baby with Down syndrome who was born alive after a botched abortion. The baby girl was even younger than the Warsaw baby, at just 22 weeks gestation; but she was more fortunate. In her case, the Wrocław hospital called in neonatologists to help her survive.
Around the same time as the Wroclaw case, a mother of a child with Down syndrome urged the Polish Parliament to outlaw eugenic abortions, Dueholm reported. Kaja Godek, a pro-life advocate, received a standing ovation for her speech about her child’s value.
Because the conservative Law and Justice Party has a majority in parliament, the new pro-life measure appears to have a good chance of becoming law.