Protests have erupted after the country confirmed a near-total ban on abortion, tightening laws that were already some of the strictest in Europe
Last week (October 22), Poland declared that abortion due to foetal defects was unconstitutional, meaning the country’s already strict laws now amount to a near-total ban, with abortions only allowed in instances of rape, incest, or if there is a threat to the mother’s life.
Since the ruling, protests have erupted across the country, with pro-choice demonstrators defying the current ban on public gatherings – imposed due to rising coronavirus cases. Now, activists around the world are showing solidarity with those in Poland, sharing photos of themselves alongside the hashtags, #PiekloKobiet (‘Hell of women’), #AborcjaBezGranic (‘Abortion without borders’), and #WyrokNaKobiety (‘Sentence on women’).
“From Belfast to Poland, standing in solidarity with our sisters and friends where their government has introduced a cruel near-total ban on abortion,” wrote one user, alongside a photo of her holding a sign containing the hashtags.
“Solidarity with our siblings in Poland fighting for reproductive rights,” said another. One user shared photos of a sister protest happening in Berlin, where demonstrators came out in support of women in Poland.
Others have also tweeted their support. “I stand with friends in Poland today,” wrote one, with a piece of paper emblazoned with the hashtags, as well as ‘Women’s strike’ and ‘Poland’. Another activist shared a photo of herself holding a big cardboard sign which contained the phone number for the Abortion Support Network in Poland.
Those on the ground in Poland carried placards that read, ‘Disgrace’, ‘War on women’, and chanted “freedom, equality, women’s rights” as they marched. A video shared by The Guardian shows protesters clashing with police. “I am pissed off,” one woman told the newspaper. “I am devastated. I don’t know what to do and in what other way we can demonstrate our anger, our discouragement, lack of help, annoyance. We are appalled.”
According to CNN, around 98 per cent of abortions in Poland are conducted as a result of foetal defects, meaning the near-total ban will likely force more women to seek procedures either illegally or abroad.
On Thursday, Dunja Mijatović, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, condemned the ruling, describing it as a “sad day for women’s rights”. Speaking to Reuters, she said: “Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates human rights. Today’s ruling of the Consitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford and even greater ordeal for all others.”
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also criticised the ruling, with the former saying in a statement: “This judgement is the result of a coordinated systemic wave of attacks on women’s human rights by Polish lawmakers, and represents their latest attempt to ban abortion in Poland. Legal prohibitions on abortion do not prevent abortion or reduce the rates of abortion; they serve only to damage women’s health by pushing abortions underground or forcing women to travel to foreign countries to access abortion care they need and to which they have a right.”
The group concluded: “Although all women may be affected by this cruel judgement, marginalised groups of women who cannot afford to travel will disproportionately suffer the consequences of the judges’ actions today.”