of pro-choice campaigners marched in central Warsaw Saturday rallying
against proposals for an almost total ban on abortion in the staunchly
Catholic country, where the existing law is already one of the most
restrictive in the EU.
“I exist, I think, I decide” and touting banners reading “Women’s
rights are human rights”, thousands of women and men joined the “March
organised by the “Dziewuchy Dziewuchom” (Women for Women) Facebook group
that has drawn over 100,000 members since being launch earlier this
make up half of this country. We want respect. We want our rights to be
respected,” Bozena Przyluska, one of the march organisers, told
reporters as it kicked off.
in 1993, current legislation bans all terminations except in cases of
pregnancies that result from rape or incest, pose a health risk to the
mother, or where the foetus is severely deformed.
activists backed by the influential Catholic Church now want to table a
citizen’s bill in the conservative-dominated parliament that would
allow abortions only when necessary to save a woman’s life.
The proposal would also increase the maximum jail term for people who perform unauthorised abortions from two years to five.
advocates have launched their own plan to garner 100,000 signatures
supporting a bill liberalising pregnancy terminations.
opinion poll published in March found that, far from supporting further
restrictions, 51 percent of Poles want access to abortions widened.
to show my solidarity with women…everyone should be able to choose
for themselves,” Jerzy Grzegorkiewicz, a 63-year-old graphic designer
and father of two who joined the march, told AFP.
Agnieszka, a 40-year-old pregnant mother of one who declined to provide
her surname, told AFP she supports existing abortion legislation
insisting that terminations “must be available in cases of rape.”
In power since November, Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government has endorsed the restrictive citizens’ bill.
petition needs 100,000 signatures to be examined by parliament. The
organisers have said they will continue their signature-gathering drive
until the end of June.
Under 2,000 legal abortions take place in Poland each year.
are no hard statistics on the number of illegal abortions performed, or
on the number of women who travel abroad for the procedure to countries
like Austria, Germany and Slovakia.
Women’s rights organisations estimate their number at between 100,000 and 150,000 a year.