Polish women's right to abortion is at stake as anti-abortion groups and the Catholic Church lobby for a bill that would make abortion illegal even in cases of rape or incest–a tightening of already severe restrictions in the country.
Currently, women can only have legal abortions if they face a medical risk, if the fetus is severely deformed, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The bill being proposed by anti-abortion groups would eliminate the provisions for survivors of rape or incest. It also extends the maximum sentence for doctors performing abortions from two years to five years in prison.
Women's rights groups have been protesting the potential law this month, including walkouts from several churches last Sunday after priests included anti-abortion statements supporting the bill in coordinated sermons.
Poland's Catholic Church has been a proponent of strict abortion restrictions, and the ruling PiS party has close ties to the church, Deutsche Welle reports. The draft bill being proposed by anti-choice groups will have to be discussed by parliament if a petition in favor of it gains 100,000 signatures, according to The Economist.
Three former first ladies of Poland–Danuta Wałęsa, Jolanta Kwaśniewska and Anna Komorowska–weighed in this week in an open letter, The Guardian reports. “Every abortion is a tragedy, but we should not aggravate women’s tragedy by forcing them to give birth to children of rape or forcing them to risk their own life or health or that of their child,” they wrote in the letter.
Anti-abortion activists in Poland may in fact be looking to U.S. anti-abortion protestors for their tactics, The Globe and Mail writes, referring to an interview with the founder of a Polish group called Stop Abortion, Mariusz Dzierżawski:
When I asked Dzierżawski about the tactics he used in his campaigns, his answer shocked me: “We did not create these tactics. We use tactics passed on by Gregg Cunningham.”
Gregg Cunningham isn’t Polish — he’s American. He has pioneered the use of graphic imagery in the fight against abortion. In other words, American abortion politics directly inspired the current controversy in Poland.
In the wake of the protests this month, the government has been more cautious in its support for the bill, according to the Financial Times. “It is obvious to me that any new solutions [should] fully take into account the statutory protection of life, health, and dignity of women,” PiS Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told reporters.
The Polish government is also considering banning the morning after pill, and has eliminated government funding for IVF procedures.