POLAND – On the third straight day of demonstrations against a near-total ban on ‘abortion law’, thousands of people marched in cities across Poland on Saturday, with some pledging more action in the coming days.
The protesters replied to Poland’s highest court’s ruling on Thursday that an existing law allowing malformed fetuses to be aborted was incompatible with the constitution.
The decision has provoked the outcry of 38 million people from rights groups in and outside the deeply Catholic world. Some demonstrators were chanting: “Justice, equality, the rights of women.”
Some of the banners and placards with slogans like “shame!” The red lightning illustration that has become a symbol of the demonstrations, and “war on women,” also held it. A referendum on the right to terminate malformed fetuses has been called by critics of the ruling, and some have declared they would block traffic nationally on Monday.
The ruling means abortions are only permitted in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is endangered.
In Poland, there are already less than 2,000 legal abortions a year, and the vast majority occur due to malformed fetuses.
It is claimed by women’s organizations that as many as 200,000 operations are carried out secretly or abroad each year.
The protests went ahead in violation of a government ban on public gatherings imposed as part of steps aimed at reducing the country’s increasing number of cases of coronavirus.
On Saturday, Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, tested positive for the virus as health authorities announced a near-breaking 13,628 cases over the last 24 hours and a breaking daily death toll of 179.
The decision of the constitutional court is in line with what the Roman Catholic episcopate of Poland and the right-wing ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party desired.
The PiS government has reformed the judiciary and has since been accused of counting several judges in its ranks loyal to the opposition.
The court amendments are part of the contentious judicial reforms which have set Poland on a path of collision with the EU over issues that threaten the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
On Friday night, near the Warsaw home of Jarosław Kaczyński, considered Poland’s ultimate powerbroker as the leader of the PiS, thousands of mostly young demonstrators gathered. Police ranks blocked their way in riot gear.
Protesters also gathered elsewhere in Poland in main squares, outside PiS premises or near churches.
The abortion ruling drew immediate criticism from the Council of Europe, the leading human rights authority on the continent. It was named “a sad day for #WomenRights” by its human rights officer, Dunja Mijatović.
The ruling was also criticized by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.