As I am writing this, thousands of Polish women and men are out in the streets dressed all in black. Hashtag #blackprotest is hot on Twitter. I am wearing black too and it pains my heart that I cannot physically join my fellow citizens today. We are protesting against putting forward a new law banning abortion.
For some background: a law from 1993 permits abortion in Poland in a few cases – when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal offence, it threatens a woman’s life, or the foetus is endangered. It is restrictive, but it is there. The new “Stop Abortion” draft law assumes criminalisation of pregnancy termination except in the case of an “immediate danger” to a woman’s life. In practice it is extremely hard to distinguish what is and what is not an immediate danger. It goes further as certain diagnostic procedures such as amniocentesis may lead to complications and the medics do not want to take responsibility for those. A number of doctors have already spoken out about how they refuse to take actions that may result in their imprisonment. It is more than understandable, however it does not exactly create a safe environment to start a family in.
If this law passes, women will be forced to give birth to children from rape and incest. They will have to carry pregnancies where the foetus has a lethal genetic disorder. What are the alternatives? Many women may try to induce miscarriage, which under the new law would be punishable, not mentioning the health and safety aspect of such an ordeal. Some may resort to going abroad to perform the procedure. Those with less financial flexibility may attempt to employ “home-made”, primitive methods of abortion, all trying to protect themselves from either prison or the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy.
Termination of pregnancy is not the only procreation-related issue currently discussed in Poland. The Parliament has recently debated an in-vitro project that assumes that only one embryo can be legally created during the procedure. Which, put into practice, negates its purpose completely because the chances of success shrink to almost none. This project seems to be a natural consequence of the abortion ban passing since under the new law it would be illegal to destroy a fertilised egg.
All this seems like a nightmare and a complete negation of all that science has given us in the last decades. But it is happening and it is happening right here in Europe. Those pushing the law forward seem not to understand that besides being an act of appropriation of a woman’s body by the state it will also create more harm rather than good. It will make women think twice before deciding to start a family in their motherland. It will leave countless rape victims helpless in the face of carrying and giving birth to the fruit of a crime.
I am a woman and I was born in Poland. I understand the controversy around the subject of abortion and I support constructive discussions. I will, however, never stand still when facing the state’s attempt of taking control over people’s private lives – especially in the name of religion.
From here I salute all the Poles protesting today whether in the streets or online. We are called Satanists for wearing black and “children murderers” for trying to defend our freedom and dignity. In an attempt to diminish this issue’s weight we are told what we are fighting for is just a cover for the media not to focus on more important things. But we are doing a good job uniting and we are receiving words of support from all over the world. That gives me hope for the abortion ban to never see the sunlight and for myself and other women to enjoy having control over their bodies and lives.
It has been over a month since women protested against the abortion ban. Shortly after the black protest the government abandoned the “Stop Abortion” project. The spirits amongst Polish women were rather triumphant, but not for long. On Thursday November 10th president Andrzej Duda signed a new law, which successfully ends its legislative process. The so called “For Life” project assumes amongst others a one-time payment of around £800 for a woman who decides to give birth to a severely ill or handicapped child. The controversies around this law are pretty obvious: many claim it is aimed at the cases when abortion is at present legal. It also brings about economic problems as apart from the money allocated for the payments it is expected that some children will be abandoned in public institutions with little chance of adoption, which puts the cost of their upbringing on the public bill. Of course, the degree to which a small payment is supposed to actually help families with disabled kids is also heavily questioned. Some right-wing politicians announced that the conflict about abortion is not over and new laws will be drafted before the end of the year. It seems that Polish women have turbulent times ahead of them, so I wholeheartedly hope we will continue to be dedicated to the fight for our rights and for common sense in this country.