Poland abortion ban: Thousands of women take to streets across country to demand reproductive rights

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Poland abortion ban: Thousands of women take to streets across country to demand reproductive rights
Wave of demonstrations follow proposal to ban termination of sick foetuses

Lydia Smith
Jan 17, 2018

Women across Poland are set to protest against attempts by the government to further restrict access to abortion.

Demonstrations across at least 50 cities have been organised by Polish Women’s Strike, a coalition of women’s rights groups.

Pro-choice demonstrators plan to wear black as a sign of mourning for their reproductive rights, which have come under threat under the ruling conservative Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc, or PiS).

Continued: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/poland-women-abortion-ban-march-strike-protest-reproductive-rights-polish-government-latest-a8163281.html

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As PiS turns topic taboo, feminists get Poland talking sex

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As PiS turns topic taboo, feminists get Poland talking sex
As Poland shifts sharply to the right on sex education and women's reproductive rights, a feminist organization is fighting back with a campaign to get women talking. It's a start, one of SexEdPl's leaders tells DW.

Date 18.11.2017
Author Jo Harper

Barbara Baran, one of the main organizers of Poland's largest feminist Facebook group, recently launched SexEdPl, an educational campaign to explain safe sex to young Poles.

As the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) government plans to take Poland out of the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and education reforms shunt sex education off the curriculum, Baran believes that the time is ripe for a conversation about matters sexual in the deeply Catholic country.

Continued at source: http://www.dw.com/en/as-pis-turns-topic-taboo-feminists-get-poland-talking-sex/a-37643331

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Poland backs payments aimed at reducing number of abortions

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Conservative government passes law promising parents of disabled children €926

Nov 7, 2016

Derek Scally in Berlin

Poland’s anti-abortion conservative government has passed a new law promising parents of children born disabled or facing life-threatening disease a once-off 4,000 zloty (€926) payment, in a bid to cut the number of abortions.

Parliamentary backing for the payment, due to come in next year, comes weeks after the government abandoned plans to tighten up Poland’s already restrictive abortion laws.

After public protest, and waning church support, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party let fall a Bill brought to parliament by anti-abortion groups, but promised to expedite assistance for women likely to give birth to a handicapped or terminally ill child.

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Source: Irish Times

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The battle over abortion rights in Poland is not over

Protesters take to the streets on ‘Black Monday’ in Warsaw on October 3. Rafal Guz/EPA

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October 7, 2016 10.00am EDT, The Conversation

After a week during which mass street protests erupted in Poland against a proposed new law banning abortions, on October 6 politicians backtracked on the plans and the parliament voted to reject the law. But, despite the victory for pro-choice campaigners, Poland is still left with some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe – and further restrictions have been proposed.

Abortion is currently only legally permissible under certain strict conditions in Poland. If the pregnancy constitutes a threat to the life or health of a woman, if prenatal examination indicates heavy, irreversible damage of the embryo, or if an incurable illness threatens the embryo’s viability, then it is legal. It is also legal if there is justified suspicion that the pregnancy is the result of an illegal act – but that must be confirmed by a prosecutor.

The law was briefly relaxed in 1996 to allow for abortions on social grounds until the 12th week of pregnancy. But that decision was ruled unconstitutional a year later and the country reverted to previous legislation. The Federation for Women and Family Planning has estimated that around 150,000 illegal abortions are carried out each year, while legal abortions number only around 1,000 per annum.

Despite this, the “Stop Abortion” coalition and conservative Christian think-tank Ordo Iuris, backed by Roman Catholic Bishops, collected more than 400,000 signatures to submit a bill to the Polish parliament that would ban abortion completely. This included criminalising miscarriage in “suspicious” circumstances – both for the pregnant woman and anybody assisting her – and in effect preventing pre-natal tests altogether. Meanwhile, a liberalisation bill was tabled by the “Save Women” pro-choice coalition, that would change the law to allow abortions until the 12th week of pregnancy.

In late September, the Polish parliament rejected the liberalisation bill and passed the restrictive abortion bill to its Justice and Human Rights Committee for further consideration. Although the bill was not sponsored by the conservative, Church-affiliated ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, every single one of its deputies voted in favour.

Anger mounts

What was not anticipated was the scale of resistance and protest and level of anger manifested on “Black Monday” on October 3. In dreadful weather, Polish women across almost 200 town and cities in Poland, and across the world, took to the streets to protest. They took their inspiration from a strike by women in Iceland in 1975, when 90% of women refused to work, clean or look after children in protest at discrimination in the workplace.

Many employers sanctioned a day off and shops, museums and restaurants were closed. The protests in the heart of Warsaw paralysed the Polish capital. Protesters wore black clothes and waved black flags to signify the loss of reproductive rights and the future deaths of Polish women under a complete ban on abortion.

At first, it seemed that the highly visible protests would be dismissed as irrelevant. Anti-government protests organised by the civil movement KOD (Committee for the Defence of Democracy), had attracted ten times the level of support in May, and been ignored by PiS. Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, initially trivialised the Black Monday protests as “fun” for women, and an inappropriate way to seek to influence debate.

However, in a sign that PiS was responsive to the scale and ferocity of the protests, prime minister Beata Szydło publicly reprimanded Waszczykowski for his remarks, and sought to distance the government from the bill. This was despite her personal support for it – and the support of the PiS leader, Jarosław Kaczyński. Two days after the protests, science and higher education minister Jarosław Gowin stated that the protests had forced a rethink and taught the government “humility”.

Opinion shift

What PiS had underestimated was the level of anger provoked by the legislation, the capacity of the campaign to mobilise young women and the consequent dramatic shift in public opinion around abortion. Before the protests, around 70% of Poles supported the existing so-called “compromise” law. A recent IPSOS telephone poll of 1,001 people conducted between 28 and 30 September showed the level of support for the status quo had fallen to 47%.

Meanwhile, only 10% support a further restriction of abortion law, with an unparalleled surge of support to almost 40% for abortion to be liberalised to include “difficult circumstances” (on socio-economic grounds) of the pregnant woman. Support for the government also dropped significantly to its lowest levels since last year’s elections and opinion polling also shows that PiS supporters are divided among themselves on the question of abortion.

This dramatic shift led to a volte-face by PiS members, who hurriedly sought to distance themselves from the proposed legislation. The Justice and Human Rights Committee recommended that the legislation be rejected and this was followed by the Polish parliament rejecting the bill outright by 352 votes to 58.

More restrictions on cards

But the question of access to abortion is by no means settled. PiS is working on its own abortion bill, which is likely to propose that so-called “eugenic abortions” – abortions on the grounds of foetal congenital deformity – to be outlawed. Given that out of 1,044 legal abortions in Poland in 2015, 1,000 were permitted on these grounds, this would still result in a virtual ban on abortion.

Meanwhile, another bill supporting a complete ban but with no punishment for the pregnant woman, collected 160,000 signatures and has already been submitted to the Polish parliament by the Polish Federation of Movements for the Defence of Life. It remains to be seen whether this bill will be debated in parliament.

But it seems certain that further restrictions will be proposed – and just as certain that further protests will take place. A further women’s strike has been called for the October 24 across the whole of Poland, with pro-choice protesters determined to maintain the pressure on the government.

Source: The Conversation

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Polish parliament rejects abortion ban after mass protests

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By AFP.
Added 6th October 2016 06:38 PM

Liberal lawmaker and former sports minister Joanna Mucha said PiS lawmakers "panicked" and backtracked on the ban after Monday's massive protests.

Poland's parliament on Thursday rejected an abortion ban after women staged massive nationwide protests in the devoutly Catholic nation, where the law is already among the most restrictive in Europe.

Right-wing and liberal parliamentarians in the 450-member lower house joined forces to reject the controversial bill by 352 votes to 58, with 18 abstentions.

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Source: New Vision Uganda

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Polish women hail victory in abortion standoff and seek more

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by Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press

Posted Oct 6, 2016 6:25 am ADT

WARSAW, Poland – Polish women are declaring victory in a dramatic showdown that pitted them against an anti-abortion group and the conservative government this week. Three days after the women donned black, boycotted work and staged giant street protests, lawmakers on Thursday voted overwhelming against a complete ban on abortion — a proposal they had supported just two weeks earlier.

The victory merely maintains the status quo, which is one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, but feminists hope they have gained the momentum to attack that next.

Agnieszka Graff, a prominent feminist commentator, said she and other feminists have struggled in vain for years to reach younger Polish women, and that this was the first time she has seen them mobilized in huge numbers.

“The feeling on the street was revolutionary. Women were angry but they were also elated at seeing how many of us there were. The black clothes created this secret-but-open signal that connected strangers on the street,” Graff said.

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Source: Associated Press / News957

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Polish parliament rejects near-total abortion ban after protests

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Thursday, Oct 6, 2016
Reuters
By Pawel Sobczak and Marcin Goettig | WARSAW

Poland's parliament overwhelmingly rejected plans for a near-total ban on abortion on Thursday after mass protests by tens of thousands of women, marking an embarrassing setback for the conservative government and the powerful Catholic Church.

The ruling Law and Justice party (PIS) had originally backed the draft proposals drawn up by an independent anti-abortion campaign group but was badly shaken by Monday's protest rallies across Poland attended by up to 100,000 women dressed in black.

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Source: Reuters

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Poland abortion: Deputy PM backs away from ban

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Oct 5, 2016, BBC

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin has said proposals put before parliament for a near-total ban on abortion will not be implemented.

A citizens' bill backed by the Catholic Church aims to ban all abortions except if the mother's life is at risk.

State-run radio quoted Mr Gowin as saying that a nationwide protest on Monday against the proposals had given the government "food for thought".

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has also distanced the government from the bill.

"I want to state very clearly that the PiS (Law and Justice) government is not working on any legislation changing the rules on abortion in Poland," Ms Szydlo told a news conference on Tuesday.

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Source: BBC.com

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Polish government signals U-turn on total abortion ban

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Minister says women’s protests ‘taught us humility’ and conservative leadership will withdraw support for controversial move

Associated Press in Warsaw

Wednesday 5 October 2016 14.18 BST, The Guardian

A proposed total abortion ban in Poland will not be implemented, a member of the government has said, describing mass protests against the ban as a lesson in humility for the country’s leadership.

Jarosław Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said on Wednesday that the protests by women had “caused us to think and taught us humility”.

The comments appear to indicate that Poland’s conservative leadership will withhold support from the highly unpopular proposal to ban abortions even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk.

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Source: The Guardian

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Polish gov’t tries to calm mass outrage at abortion proposal

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By VANESSA GERA
Oct. 4, 2016 1:23 PM EDT, The Big Story

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's government struggled Tuesday to deal with the fallout from massive street protests by women furious at a legislative proposal to impose a total ban on abortion — and gave signals that it would withhold its support from the deeply divisive measure.

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski denounced the protests — which involved tens if not hundreds of thousands across the nation — as "marginal" and "a mockery of important issues."

But when that triggered outrage among female opposition lawmakers, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo attempted to calm the waters, saying she did not approve of Waszczykowski's comments and that her government is not actively engaged in an attempt to further restrict the current law, which is already one of the most restrictive in Europe.

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Source: The Big story

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