Thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday for the third consecutive day in Poland against a near-total ban on abortions in a country whose laws were already among the EU’s toughest.
Poland’s Constitutional Court on Thursday banned the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (VIP) in the case of deformed foetuses. The decision, which is final, is hotly contested by the opposition and human rights groups in this Central European country steeped in Catholic tradition.
Chanting “Freedom, Equality, Women’s Rights,” protesters defied a ban on public gatherings decreed by the Government as part of the effort to stem the spread of the novel Coronavirus, staging countrywide demonstrations against the Court’s decision.
“Shame” read some banners. “War on women,” screamed others brandished by the protestors, who also called for a referendum on the issue.
The Court’s ruling, which is in line with the wishes of the ruling ultra-conservative nationalist Law and Justice Party, PiS, limits the right to interrupt pregnancies to cases in which they are life-threatening or result from rape or incest.
The Polish presidency and the country’s bishops expressed satisfaction following the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which was reformed by the PiS government and has been accused since then of including a number of judges loyal to the ruling party.
According to official figures, Poland registered only 1,100 VIP cases for a population of 38 million, and most were authorised because of an irreversible malformation of the foetus.
However, NGOs estimate that close to 200,000 abortions are performed clandestinely in Poland or in foreign clinics each year.