Saturday, January 30, 2021

Protests Continue in Poland Following Court Decision Banning Abortion in Almost All Cases

January 29, 2021

Major protests continue in Poland following the implementation of a court decision banning abortion in almost all cases.  

Prior to the court’s ruling Poland already had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.  Under a 1993 law, abortion was only allowed in cases where pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or endangered the pregnant person’s life and in cases of severe fetal disabilities.  In October, the Constitutional Court prohibited abortions in cases of severe fetal disability, holding that “an unborn child is a human being” entitled to protection under Poland’s constitution

In 2019, fewer than 2,000 legal abortions occurred in Poland, and 98% of those abortions occurred under the fetal disability exception. It is estimated that 200,000 Polish women obtain illegal abortions or travel out of the country to obtain the procedure each year. 

When the court’s decision was announced in October, it set off a month of protests, resulting in a delay in implementing the decision. On Wednesday, the government finally published the decision, perhaps anticipating that extreme cold weather and COVID-19 restrictions would decrease protests.  Friday marked the third consecutive day of protests

According to the BBC, opinion polls indicate that the majority of Poles oppose increasing restrictions on abortion.  In 2016, attempts to tighten restrictions through legislation met with strong opposition and large scale protests.  As an alternative to passing legislation, conservative members of Parliament filed a court case challenging the 1993 abortion law correctly anticipating a ruling in their favor from the Constitutional Court where the majority of judges were nominated by Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party.

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