Black Mon­day: Pol­ish women strike against abor­tion ban

Malta Independent - - HEALTH -

Thou­sands of women in Poland have gone on strike in protest against pro­pos­als for a to­tal ban on abor­tions. They marched through the streets wear­ing black as a sign of mourning for their re­pro­duc­tive rights. Women who op­pose the ban are stay­ing away from work and school and re­fus­ing to do do­mes­tic chores, in a protest in­spired by a women’s strike in Ice­land in 1975. Anti-abor­tion protests are be­ing held around the coun­try too.

Women took to the streets of the cap­i­tal city, War­saw, in a pro­choice march on what they called “Black Mon­day”.

They also protested in Gdansk, Lodz, Wro­claw, Krakow and else­where in the mostly Catholic na­tion. De­mon­stra­tions were held in sol­i­dar­ity in other Euro­pean cities, in­clud­ing Berlin, Brus­sels, Dus­sel­dorf, Belfast, Lon­don and Paris.

If the law - which has cleared one par­lia­men­tary hur­dle so far - goes through it will make Poland’s abor­tion laws as re­stric­tive as those in two other coun­tries in Europe: Malta and the Vat­i­can.

Women found to have had abor­tions would be pun­ished with a five-year prison term. Doc­tors found to have as­sisted in an abor­tion would also be li­able for jail time.

Abor­tion is al­ready banned in most cir­cum­stances in Poland. The cur­rent ex­cep­tions are:

• where the woman’s life is in danger

• where there is a risk of se­ri­ous and ir­re­versible dam­age to the foe­tus

• where the preg­nancy is as a re­sult of rape or in­cest - this must be con­firmed by a pros­e­cu­tor

Crit­ics say the tight­en­ing of the law could mean women who have a mis­car­riage are also in­ves­ti­gated, on sus­pi­cion of hav­ing had the preg­nancy ter­mi­nated de­lib­er­ately. At early stages of preg­nancy, mis­car­riages and abor­tions have in­dis­tin­guish­able symp­toms.

One pro­tester said: “We are say­ing ‘enough is enough’ over what is hap­pen­ing, to what the govern­ment, the Church and the so-called pro-life or­gan­i­sa­tions are plan­ning for women.

“They want to in­tro­duce an an­tiabor­tion law which will mean in many cases, women will be sen­tenced to death. It will take away the sense of se­cu­rity they have, the treat­ment op­tions avail­able when preg­nancy puts their lives or health in danger.”

One gy­nae­col­o­gist warned that the law as it is worded now could ef­fec­tively lead to doc­tors be­ing un­will­ing to do in­va­sive pre­na­tal tests and life­sav­ing op­er­a­tions.

Prof Ro­muald Deb­ski, who works at a hospi­tal in War­saw, told Pol­ish me­dia: “Who­ever causes the death of the un­born child is pun­ish­able by im­pris­on­ment up to three years. If I have a pa­tient with pre-eclamp­sia, who is 32 weeks preg­nant, I will have to let her and her child die.

“I have to, be­cause if I per­form a cae­sarean sec­tion and the child dies, I may go to prison for three years, be­cause the child was pre­ma­ture.”

Pre-eclamp­sia is a po­ten­tially fa­tal con­di­tion that can de­velop in the sec­ond half of preg­nancy and can only be cured by de­liv­er­ing the baby.

A sep­a­rate bill seeks to curb in­vitro fer­til­i­sa­tion (IVF), al­low­ing only one em­bryo to be fer­tilised at any one time, and ban­ning the prac­tice of freez­ing em­bryos.

The Catholic Church is among those who sup­port the to­tal ban. The Pol­ish Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence asked Catholics to pray for “the con­science and the light of the Holy Spirit on all Poles who pro­tect hu­man life from con­cep­tion to nat­u­ral death”.

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