March 23 is yet another historic moment in the Polish history. Renewed attempt to ban abortion in case of foetal impairment have brought almost 90 000 people to the streets of Warsaw, not to mention other 23 cities in Poland and 13 abroad. How did it start?
On the March, 14 the Polish Episcopal Conference appealed for the “Stop abortion” bill to be proceeded. A day later, the Head of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights announced that the opinion on the draft law will be issued on the next Monday (19.03). This illustrates the enormous power of the Church and the strong resistance of the politicians to put human rights over their own interests in the light of the upcoming elections in 2018 (local) and 2019 (national). The opinion of the committee is necessary for another committee that is supposed to proceed the bill (Committee for Social Policy and Family). In response to bishops’ political interference, the Polish Women’s Strike organized protests in front of dioceses and curia on Sunday (18.03). The Federation for Women and Family Planning appealed to the members of the Committee to issue a negative opinion. Nevertheless members of the committee were reluctant to consider women’s rights perspective during the debate and they suddenly voted for closing the list of speakers. As a result, many activists who came for this debate from other cities were excluded and did not have a chance to voice their concerns and arguments. The Committee approved the draft law.
The next step is a debate in the Committee on Social Policy and Family. Polish activists assumed that politicians will proceed the bill as quickly as possible and that the vote in the Parliament may take place on Thursday (22.03). Therefore, Friday was called a day of mass protest and feminists from all over the country were invited to come and participate in rallies and demonstrations against this draconian law. Attendance was even better than in the Black Protest. Organizers and police have assessed that as many as 90 000 people participated in the rally that started in front of the parliament and finished near the headquarter of the ruling party at Nowogrodzka street. Speakers vocally pressed two main postulates: rejection of the draft law and a negative opinion of the Constitutional Tribunal on the motion on constitutionality of the right to abortion in case of foetal impairment (more here). What was surprising? Age and gender of the participants – there were more younger persons and more men than usually; strong anticlerical message; high number of banners for legal abortion on demand. Despite very short time for organization and promotion, 75% of Poles heard about the Black Friday. Everyday there many articles and features on abortion appear in the media; abortion discussed from different perspectives and in diverse milieus. The opinion poll conducted three days after the Black Friday showed that support for Law and Justice has dropped by 12%, which is the lowest outcome since the elections. Party’s stance on abortion is one of the reason behind this historic drop. Activists from Warsaw organized a picket in front of the archdiocese blocking access for bishops on Holy Thursday. many people are so outrage at the interference of the Church that they plan various actions to show their disapproval or leave the Church by means of e.g. apostasy.
Poland has received many proofs of international solidarity, including statements by the UN human rights experts, a group of MEPs, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (more here), and over 200 NGOs from across the globe (more about their statement here).
Solidarity pickets abroad:
- Bruksela https://www.facebook.com/events/176704076467060/
- Oslo https://www.facebook.com/events/139303096901150/
- Kopenhaga https://www.facebook.com/events/1684123825004128/
- Wilno https://www.facebook.com/events/314986465693880/
- Barcelona https://www.facebook.com/events/1640428319381284/
- Zagrzeb https://www.facebook.com/events/1578686868912271/
- Paryż https://www.facebook.com/events/152609085435973/
- NYC https://www.facebook.com/events/438287326601407/
- Londyn https://www.facebook.com/events/2017289751871655/
- Edynburg https://www.facebook.com/events/358186851351598/?ti=icl
- Dublin https://www.facebook.com/events/608395852831263/
- Berlin https://www.facebook.com/events/236147303597766/
- Budapeszt https://www.facebook.com/events/926459857523046/
Press coverage in foreign media:
- Women in Poland protest plans to tighten anti-abortion law