The Great Coalition for Equality and Choice was established as a reaction to the offensive of anti-women groups. The draft regulations directly threatening the life and health of women, restricting access to emergency contraception, frightening doctors in their work places, the shocking billboard campaigns, the fight against comprehensive sexuality education, as well as the systemic weakening of the protection of women against domestic violence. These facts call for our active and organized resistance. The need of a unified voice of women is today a matter of course.
The Coalition consists of over eighty organizations and groups from all over Poland. We draw our strength from the two-hundred-years old tradition of female political and civic activities that the Coalition proudly joins. We have a capital of knowledge, practical NGO experience, and finally – the social energy of the pro-women’s rights protests of 2016 and 2017.
The Coalition’s goal is the comprehensive fight for women’s human rights: quick threat identification, coordination of legal activities, and building social awareness. We demand sexuality education, good standards of perinatal care, the fullness of reproductive rights, and the total elimination of violence against women.
The current legal regulations on the termination of pregnancy do not work in practice. Almost every attempt to obtain a legal abortion encounters resistance from gynecologists or hospitals directors. In 2015 the Constitutional Tribunal released doctors from the duty to refer the patient to another specialist who is able to perform the service. Now, entire public health care facilities, or even provinces are entitled to the “conscience clause”. Desperate women head to foreign clinics, even when theoretically they have a right to a legal abortion in Poland. We will persistently strive for the liberalization of the law. We want the 21st century Polish women to be able to use the same standards as other European women. Only ideology stands in the way.
The anti-woman campaign of religious fundamentalists is accepted and supported by the Polish government. The President of Poland calls not to respect the regulations of the Istanbul Convention. The current Minister of Health publicly assures that sexuality education will not find a place in Polish schools. He also declares he would make it impossible for a raped girl to obtain emergency contraception.
The actions of anti-abortion activists penetrates deeper and deeper into the everyday lives of citizens. There is a systemic pressure on hospitals performing abortions on medical grounds. The local authorities fail to react to anti-abortion propaganda in the public space – for instance setting up large boards with photos of bloody remains of developed fetuses captioned “this is how children are being murdered in Polish hospitals”. Frequently, the image of Hitler is placed nearby, with a caption equalizing termination of pregnancy with the Holocaust, i.e. the legacy of Nazism. Such campaigns are also openly directed at children. Dolls named “Little John” that are supposed to symbolize potential abortion victims are handed out during classes at schools. Anti-abortion art competitions for children are also organized.
In hospitals, despite many complaints from women giving birth, there is no reaction to the so-called “defenders of life” visiting maternity wards. At the same time, standards of perinatal care are being disregarded, which in recent months has led to more deaths of women, reported as tragic accidents or medical errors. But that is not all. The lack of education and awareness in sexual health results in a rapid increase of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, and, until recently thought to have already been eliminated, syphilis. Furthermore, the typically female cancer screening programs are being discontinued.
As the members of the Coalition from all over Poland, we are certain that these shocking phenomena are like connected vessels. Demonizing sexuality education, moral consent to the violation of women’s rights, mistakes and negligence of the public health policies are aspects of discrimination and violation of human rights. The Great Coalition has a clear vision of its goals. We want a Poland where women are safe and free. We want women and girls to enjoy their rights to knowledge, dignity, and health. We will not tolerate the violation of woman’s human rights. No religion and no ideology have the right to justify that.