Feminism forgotten in Polish abortion law


On Thursday 22nd October, Poland’s top court tightened their already strict abortion laws even further; they ruled that abortions in the event of foetal defects are unconstitutional and are to be outlawed.

Previously, abortions were permitted in the cases of rape, incest, foetal defects, and if the mother’s health was at risk. Now however, foetal defects are not to be taken into consideration , despite this accounting for 98% of all abortions in Poland. Therefore, abortions have been essentially outlawed in the predominantly Catholic nation.

The government does not have the interests of Polish women at heart

This, along with the fact that between 80,000-120,000 Polish women seek abortions abroad per year, shows that the government does not have the interests of Polish women at heart, instead choosing to prioritise intra-party opinion over the welfare of their people. Additionally, the majority of the court’s judges were conveniently appointed by Poland’s ruling party, the Law and Justice Party, paving the way for them to push through their pro-life agenda.

Women’s rights have routinely been under threat in Poland. The issue surrounding abortion is not a new one to them. In 2016, a petition – started by anti-abortion groups – raised around 450,000 signatures, prompting a debate from MPs, with notable support from the Law and Justice Party.

Women in Poland have had enough of right beings disregarded and attacked

As a counter-measure, some 100,000 women partook in protests, which eventually led to MPs deciding against tightening the laws. Similar protests are taking place today, even in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This goes to show that women in Poland have had enough of their rights being disregarded and attacked, when they are willing to protest en mass even during the worst pandemic in over 100 years.

To emphasise further what Polish women have had to experience, in July 2020, Poland’s justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro confirmed that he was seeking to withdraw Poland from the EU’s treaty regarding violence against women. Naturally, this is in conflict with the understanding of women’s rights within the modern feminist movement.

No rational person would ever want to see their country willingly withdraw from a treaty such as this, but to Polish women this is just another regular roll-back on the rights that they fought so hard to acquire.

However, as the government attempts to continue down this route of forced, “constitutional” suppression of women’s rights, female activists have relentlessly fought back with the tenacity that saw them acquire their rights in the first place.

As mentioned earlier, women’s rights groups and activists have taken to the streets in their thousands, despite blatantly flouting Poland’s coronavirus restrictions. This shows that the feminist movement in Poland is very much alive and well, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that these oppressive moves by their government have only served to add fuel to the fire. In an ideal world, of course, there would be no need for these protests, but in 2020, we have seen constant violations of rights of specific identities, such as those within the BAME community, and as we are currently observing in Poland.

The Feminist movement in Poland is very much alive and well

Unfortunately, the court’s ruling is final and binding. There is no further legal process that has to be done for this to become law. Once it comes into effect, those 98% of women will either have to carry a defected foetus, or spend time and money to get an abortion through other means – whether that be in another country or illegally within Poland, which is arguably a massive risk to the mother’s life in itself.

Ultimately, the recent ruling shows that the Law and Justice Party care not for the welfare and rights of women, and that they will do almost anything to ensure that their intra-party opinions become law, whether the people support it or not.

Image: Iga Lubczańska via Creative Commons

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