Fundamentalists led by activist Kaja Godek forced the Social Policy and Family Committee to debate the repressive “Stop abortion” bill on Monday (2.07.2018) at 4 pm. Let us recall that this draft law would penalize abortions in case of foetal impairment, which now make up 95% of all legal abortions performed in the Polish hospitals. This decision comes as a surprise, because the committee declared not to deal with this draft law in the foreseeable future. Even more disrupting is the fact that Godek informed about the Monday session before a) it was announced at the website of the Parliament b) MPs were informed about the bill having been added to the Committee’s agenda. Since March, the anti-choice groups has led an intensified lobbying on the streets, social media, accusing the ruling party (Law and Justice) of being treacherous and too reluctant to sanction the abortion ban. Godek participated in many Committee’s session to exert pressure on the chairperson so that she would include the draft law in the agenda. The Committee received many critical opinions about the bill from the parliamentary Bureau of Research, The Supreme Bar Council, The Amnesty International Poland, The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and The Federation for Women and Family Planning.
Pro-choice community mobilized for the Monday protest, which was organized by the Polish Women’s Strike and the Warsaw Women’s Strike in front of the Parliament. The Federation for Women and Family Planning launched a mailing campaign to inform members of The Committee about strong social opposition to the draft law.
We have also asked our international partners to spread information about the upcoming dangerous vote in the parliamentary committee and appeal to the decision-makers to reject the bill.
The committe directed the bill to the subcommittee which is commonly understood as a legislative freezer. Still, we will monitor its work and inform the public about any updates.
In January 2018, the MP referred a draft law banning abortion in case of foetal impairment to the committee for a further discussion. Following massive protests, the decision makers seemed to put “Stop abortion” into “a legislative freezer”. The anti-choice groups continued to put pressure on the politicians with letters, tweets and pickets in front of the Polish parliament. Without effect, until the Polish bishops intervened. On the March, 14 the Polish Episcopal Conference appealed for the 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 was necessary for Social Policy and Family Committee that is supposed to proceed the bill. In response to bishops’ political interference, the Polish Women’s Strike mobilized women to protest in front of dioceses and curia. 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 voted for closing the list of speakers. As a result, many activists who came for this debate from other cities were excluded and they did not have a chance to voice their concerns and arguments. The Committee approved the draft law. Friday – 23.03 – came to history as a day of the mass protest and feminists from all over the country participated in rallies and demonstrations against this draconian law. More about the #BlackFriday.
Poland has then 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, and over 200 NGOs from across the globe (more here).
IWHC Stands With Polish Women Demanding Abortion Rights
New York, June 29, 2018 – As legislators seek to revive draconian legislation that would nearly ban abortion in Poland, the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) stands in solidarity with Polish women who are defying a repressive state to claim their reproductive and human rights.
Though Polish women have made their voices heard, with massive demonstrations that halted anti-abortion legislation over the past three years, powerful anti-choice forces continue to push for regressive, dangerous legislation. The proposed bill –which is slated for committee discussion on July 2- would further limit abortion and threaten the health, wellbeing, and lives of Polish women. Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws within the European Union. Abortion is only lawful to safeguard the life or health of women, in situations of severe fetal anomaly or where the pregnancy results from rape or another criminal act such as incest.
IWHC calls on the Polish government to respect the voices of Polish women, who will once again take to the streets on July 2nd to peacefully protest, and urges the Polish parliament to reject this retrograde bill. The recent vote to legalize abortion in staunchly Catholic Ireland, should serve as an inspiration for Polish legislators to be responsive to the needs of Polish women, instead of retrenching and disregarding the worthiness of women’s lives.
Catholics for Choice Call on Polish Parliament to Stand for Compassionate Care
We are deeply concerned by relentless attempts to roll back the reproductive rights of women in Poland. The draft bill being debated on Monday 2 July is the latest effort to impose an extremist healthcare policy on Polish citizens.
If adopted, this legislation will further limit the already restricted grounds on which women can lawfully access abortion in Poland. It will place women’s health and lives at risk and violate Poland’s international human rights obligations.
The latest “Stop Abortion” proposal seeks to ban abortion in situations where there is a severe fetal anomaly. 95% of legal abortions in Poland are performed on these grounds. These are often times the most tragic cases, in which expectant mothers receive a devastating diagnosis that their pregnancy is not viable. This bill would further hinder women, particularly those from low-income and rural communities, from accessing safe and necessary abortion care.
In Ireland, the issue of abortion in cases of fatal fetal anomaly featured prominently in debates ahead of the historic referendum held in May. In the end, Irish citizens voted overwhelmingly for compassion, care, and social justice.
The Irish vote also shows that the Catholic faith cannot and should not stand in the way of the rights of women, but rather reaffirms their freedom as moral agents over their bodies and their lives. Even in a predominantly Catholic country like Poland, laws governing access to abortion need not adhere to the position of the Catholic hierarchy.
First, church teaching and tradition leave room for support for a more liberal position on abortion. Core Catholic tenets include the primacy of conscience and the right to dissent. Furthermore, the church acknowledges that it does not know when the fetus becomes a person, and it has not declared the position on abortion to be among infallible teachings. Respect for life should include respect for women’s lives.
Second, many Catholics themselves do not support in thought or action the position of the church on abortion.
Third, Polish law provides for a separation between church and state; the church supports this principle and has called on Catholics to respect the positions of people of other faiths. This is particularly significant given that the Catholic church’s position on reproductive matters, including abortion, is more conservative than any other major faith group.
This review of relevant information regarding the church, abortion, and the state exposes the freedom policymakers have in crafting laws that respect the capacity of women to make good moral decisions. Policymakers should note that moral decisions can only be made in an atmosphere free of coercion, whether that coercion is physical or legal.
Catholics for Choice supports policy making and governing structures that make a clear separation between church and state. At the same time, we also recognize that religion can make a contribution to law and policy making, particularly where these relate to social justice and the dignity of the human person. We strongly support the right of religious institutions to participate in the life of nations, to express their values, and even to attempt to influence public policy. Policymakers have the responsibility to evaluate the positions put forward by the church in the same way that they would evaluate public policy positions put forward by any other party. Do the positions contribute to the common good? Are they based on solid, provable facts? Do they unnecessarily infringe or impose on the rights and freedoms of others? Are they equitable? Have the people who will most directly feel the consequences of the policy been consulted?
CFC offers this letter in light of the unofficial but significant public policy role of the Catholic church and its teachings in Poland, and in consideration of the fact that church leaders, in pursuit of eliminating access to legal abortion, have tended to stress certain aspects of church teaching while ignoring others that do not support this agenda.
When it comes to the question of abortion, there are many legal formulations that can demonstrate respect for women’s moral agency. In the United States and South Africa, that respect is embedded in a constitutional right to choose abortion. Most European countries demonstrate this respect differently: through laws which affirm respect for developing life while clearly recognizing the need for women to have the abortion option in some or many circumstances. Poland can ensure that legislation on abortion acknowledges the moral agency of women, respects developing life, and appreciates the Catholic tradition while honoring the views of other faith groups.
Over 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy described his own determination to keep in appropriately distinct spheres his religiously based beliefs from the demands of democracy and pluralism: “I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President if I should be elected – on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subject – I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.”
Most importantly, our letter comes to you from Catholics who are concerned about the health, welfare, and rights of the women of Poland. We represent the voice of the majority of Catholics all over the world who believe that our Catholic faith demands social justice and that we are called to address the needs of those who are suffering and in positions of powerlessness.
We call on Members of Poland’s Parliament to listen to the voices of women across Poland and to reject this regressive legislative proposal and to protect women’s health and autonomy.
Catholics for Choice
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) urges Polish members of the Sejm to strike down liberticidal bill which would impose near total ban on abortion in the country
Paris, Monday, 2 July 2018
Dear member of the Parliament,
Today, the Sejm’s Social Policy and Family Committee will debate the so-called “Stop Abortion” bill, which purports to amend the 1993 Family Planning Act by prohibiting abortion in the event of a severe and irreversible foetal impairment, one of the three grounds on which women can seek abortion services in Poland. On this occasion, we are writing to express our deepest concern regarding this bill, which will place women’s health and lives at risk and violate Poland’s international human rights commitments. We strongly urge you, member of the Parliament, not to endorse it.
The bill would impose a near total ban on abortion
To this day, 98% of legal abortion procedures in Poland are accessed on the basis of a severe and irreversible foetal impairment. Delegalising this ground to seek legal abortion services would thus imply a de facto ban on abortion in the country.
The bill is in utter violation of Poland’s international human rights commitments
Several international human rights instruments, including the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, have affirmed that ensuring women’s human rights necessarily encompasses ensuring access to safe and legal abortion. UN bodies have, on multiple occasions, recommended that States guarantee access to abortion services in case of severe and irreversible foetal impairment; whether the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,  the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,  the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights,  or the UN Committee Against Torture.  They have not only recommended access to abortion services in cases where the severity of the foetus’ malformation make it almost certain the child has already or will die immediately after birth, but also to therapeutic abortion – abortion for medical reasons.  In light of these very clear international human rights standards, the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice had expressly called on the Polish Parliament to reject the “Stop Abortion” bill when first examined in March, highlighting that “forced continuation of pregnancy in any circumstance violates a person’s human rights.” 
These calls have been consistently echoed by European Union and Council of Europe institutions. Going ahead with the “Stop Abortion” bill would completely violate Poland’s obligation to respect and implement judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which has condemned Poland on several occasions because of its restrictive interpretation of the right to abortion.  In its resolution of 15 November 2017, the European Parliament (EP) specifically “strongly criticise[d] any legislative proposal that would prohibit abortion in cases of severe or fatal foetal impairment,”  which was one of the contributing factors to the EP finding the situation in Poland represented a clear risk of a serious breach of the EU’s founding values as enshrined in article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU), and warranted the triggering of the article 7(1) TEU procedure.
The bill has already sparked massive protests and criticism from Polish citizens and institutions
Similar draft legislative proposals have already been introduced in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016, that contained total or near total bans on abortion, which were defeated by massive public protests. The “Stop Abortion” bill met the same fate last March, following which the Sejm had decided the proposal would not be tabled in the coming months.
The Social Policy and Family Committee has also received many critical opinions about the bill from the parliamentary Bureau of Research, the Supreme Bar Council, Amnesty International Poland, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Federation for Women and Family Planning, among others.
We urge you to hear the voices of the thousands of women and Polish citizens who took the streets each time such a proposal was debated, of the national institutions mobilised on each of these occasions as well, and of the regional and international organisations who have consistently been reminding Poland of its obligations to ensure respect for womens’ rights
For all these reasons, we strongly urge you, member of the Parliament, not to endorse the “Stop Abortion” bill, and ask you to strike it down.
We stand ready to provide any further information you may need.
International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion
To the Members of the Polish Sejm and the parliamentary clubs:
The International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion has nearly 1,300 members in 119 countries who support women’s right to safe abortion.
On behalf of all the members of the Campaign, I am writing to urge you to drop this vicious, anti-women, anti-abortion bill. It will not stop abortions, it will not save babies who could not survive on their own no matter what you seek to dictate, and it is dangerous for women. Dangerous for their lives and health and destructive of their well-being. We cannot understand why you hate women so much, or why you want to punish them so cruelly.
Most women become mothers in their lifetimes, but women are not baby machines who push babies, one after the other, out into the world without any thought or caring what happens to them. That is why women resort to abortion – when they are unable to commit to another baby, which is a lifetime commitment. One in four women across the world has an abortion in her lifetime. It is a normal part of women’s lives, including in Poland and including in your own families.
What would you do if women started leaving babies on your doorstep, as women did in the past? Would you open your arms to an endless number of babies? That is what you are asking women to do, care for an endless number of babies. What is your actual day-to-day commitment to children compared to most of your countrywomen, and do you not have a limit of how many children you would be willing to look after, in sickness as well as in health?
Your anti-abortion bill doesn’t give a damn about children, it’s an expression of hatred of women. Stop punishing women.