WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Women’s rights activists said Monday they are planning more protests in Poland, despite pandemic restrictions, after a top court tightened the predominantly Catholic nation’s already strict abortion law.
Angry street protests have been held since the court ruling Thursday, with participants defying a “red zone” ban on gatherings intended to halt a spike in new coronavirus infections in Poland.
The head of a doctors' group, Dr. Andrzej Matyja, speaking on Radio Zet, criticized the ruling's timing during the pandemic, saying it amounted to an “irresponsible provoking of people to rallies” where social distancing cannot be maintained.
The government-controlled Constitutional Tribunal ruled it was unconstitutional to terminate a pregnancy due to fetal congenital defects. The ruling effectively banned almost all abortions and overturned a hard-won compromise on the 1993 law that even then was one of Europe's strictest abortion regulations.
After the ruling, abortion is allowed in Poland only when the pregnancy threatens the woman's health or is the result of rape or incest.
European Parliament lawmaker for the conservative ruling team, Patryk Jaki, who is the father of a child with Down Syndrome, tweeted to say that abortions can also eliminate healthy children “because you rarely are 100% sure.”
Jaki also argued that abortions contributed to the nation's negative birthrate which could be a “threat to Poland's state.”
Health Ministry figures show that 1,110 legal abortions were carried out in Poland in 2019, mostly because of fetal defects. The non-government Federation For Women and Family Planning estimates the number of illegal abortions at between 100,000 -150,000 a year.
According to the Women's Strike group, protesters in almost 50 cities and towns plan to block downtown traffic later Monday with cars, bikes, or by just walking.
The group says that forcing women to carry through pregnancies involving fetuses with severe defects will result in their unnecessary physical and mental suffering.
Group leader Marta Lempart said there will also be a strike Wednesday and a protest march Friday in Warsaw, the seat of the government, the constitutional court and the right-wing ruling Law and Justice party behind the court’s decision.
On Sunday, protests against the new abortion law were held in and around churches in Poland.