Abortion activists and pro-lifers are staging protests Monday across Poland as the nation considers a bill to protect unborn babies by banning all abortions.
The protests originated with abortion activists who have been urging women to wear black and skip work or school on Monday to oppose the new pro-life bill. According to Reuters, thousands of women dressed in black and protested Monday morning in the streets of Warsaw for the Czarny Protest, or Black Protest. Some also refused to do chores or have sex as part of the protest.
Some government offices, restaurants, businesses and university classes shut down Monday as a result. At one point, abortion activists also blocked access to the ruling party headquarters, according to Reuters. Smaller pro-abortion protests also were held in other parts of the country and in other European nations.
The new citizen-led pro-life bill, which has wide support from the public and several leading government officials, would prohibit all abortions except when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. The bill would criminalize abortion for causing the “death of a conceived child.” Doctors who do abortions and women who have them could face jail time of up to five years.
On Sept. 23, Polish Members of Parliament voted 267 to 154 to move the “Stop Abortion” legislation forward for further review in committee.
The strong Catholic country already prohibits most abortions. In Poland, abortion is legal in cases of rape and incest, the life or health of the mother or severe fetal deformities – though “severe” is widely defined and unborn babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities have been legally aborted under the current law.
Here’s more from Reuters:
… PiS officials [the ruling Law and Justice Party] have been quoted in local media saying the party may introduce its own proposal in parliament that would allow abortion in the case of rape and incest and a threat to the mother’s health but disallow terminations of handicapped fetuses.
“The right to life, or as some insist, the right to an abortion, is an important moral challenge for our civilization, our western civilization,” Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told RMF FM radio.
Waszczykowski also criticized the abortion activists’ protest, saying: “We expect serious debate on questions of life, death and birth. We do not expect happenings, dressing in costumes and creating artificial problems.”
Estimates vary about the number of abortion activists participating in the Monday protests. One news outlet showed its bias by claiming that the protest “will see half the Polish population dressed in black,” erroneously implying that all Polish women support abortions.
However, the pro-life bill has strong support from the Polish people. Almost half a million citizens signed the citizen-led bill, and a recent poll found that 58 percent of Poles support a ban on abortions, according to The Wall Street Journal. Pro-lifers are hopeful that the bill will become law.
Pro-lifers held their own counter-protests on Monday by wearing white and drawing attention to unborn babies’ lives. Pro-lifers identified their events as bialy protest, or white protest.
“I wonder if any of the protesters wondered what adults with Down syndrome feel when they understand the protests against them,” one pro-lifer wrote on Twitter in Polish with the hashtag #Bialyprotest, or white protest.
Ciekawe czy ktoś z protestujących zastanowił się co czują dorosłe osoby z zespołem Downa, które rozumieją ze protestuje się przeciwko nim pic.twitter.com/lQvU0pDzIC
— Patryk Jaki (@PatrykJaki) October 3, 2016
The pro-life bill began gaining attention last winter after a horrific story came to light about 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. Some news outlets reported that the baby may have been aborted because of Down syndrome, but that was not confirmed.
Two leading government officials have spoke up in support of the pro-life legislation. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told Radio Poland that she supports the citizen bill, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland, said he plans to follow Catholic leaders’ call to pass the measure. The Law and Justice party also has been supporting increased government spending on programs to help children and their families, according to Polish news reports.
Catholic leaders have been among the most vocal advocates for the legislation. In April, Polish priests read a statement from the pulpit in support of the bill, LifeNews reported.
“Catholics’ position on this is clear, and unchangeable. One needs to protect every person’s life from conception to natural death,” the Polish bishops said in the statement. “We ask the lawmakers and the government to initiate the legislation.”