Thousands of Polish women took to the streets of Warsaw and dozens of other cities Wednesday to protest against a proposal in parliament to further tighten the country's already restrictive abortion law as well as lawmakers failure to consider a proposal to liberalize the abortion law.
Polish Women’s Strike, a coalition of women’s rights groups, organized the demonstrations after the lower chamber of the parliament voted on Jan. 10 to send a bill to ban the abortion of sick fetuses to a parliamentary committee.
The proposed bill would eliminate one of the few grounds for legal abortion in Poland, where women can only have an abortion when the life of the mother or fetus is in danger, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or in cases of grave fetal defect.
On the same day, Polish lawmakers also voted to refuse to consider a proposal drafted by women's right groups titled "Save Women," which advocated greater access to abortion, free contraception and sex education in schools. Meanwhile Women’s Strike held a protest Saturday outside of Parliament targeting "centrist opposition for failing to ensure enough votes in favour of proposal." Twenty-eight opposition lawmakers were absent during the vote.
Reproductive rights have come under attack by the ruling Law and Justice party, which has a close relationship with the Catholic church, a prominent institution in a country with roughly 80 percent of self-declared Catholics.
Previously, in October 2016, thousands of women marched across Poland to protest a bill that sought to impose up to five-year prison sentences for women who had abortions. The massive protests forced the ruling Law and Justice party to shelve the proposal.
Poland's oldest reproductive rights organization, the Federation for Women and Family Planning, estimates that the number of illegal abortions carried out in Poland ranges from 10,000 to 150,000 per year. These abortions present serious life-threatening risks to women and are expected to increase if the new law is passed.