Otago Daily Times

Abor­tion rul­ing prompts protests

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WAR­SAW: Protests gath­ered across Poland on Thurs­day (lo­cal time) after the Con­sti­tu­tional Tri­bunal ruled abor­tion due to foetal de­fects was un­con­sti­tu­tional, ban­ning the most com­mon of the few le­gal grounds for end­ing a preg­nancy in the largely Catholic coun­try.

After the rul­ing goes into ef­fect, abor­tion will be per­mis­si­ble in Poland only in the case of rape, in­cest or a threat to the mother’s health and life, which make up only about 2% of le­gal ter­mi­na­tions con­ducted in re­cent years.

The devel­op­ment pushes Poland fur­ther away from the Euro­pean main­stream, as the only EU coun­try apart from tiny Malta to se­verely re­strict ac­cess to abor­tion.

‘‘[A pro­vi­sion that] le­galises eu­genic prac­tices in the field of the right to life of an un­born child and makes the right to life of an un­born child de­pen­dent on his or her health . . . is in­con­sis­tent . . . with the con­sti­tu­tion,’’ tri­bunal head Ju­lia Przyleb­ska said.

Hun­dreds marched to­wards the house of gov­ern­ing party leader Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski on

Thurs­day night, some car­ry­ing can­dles and signs that read ‘‘tor­ture’’. Most wore face masks to com­ply with coro­n­avirus pan­demic re­stric­tions.

Po­lice in riot gear had cor­doned off the house. The War­saw Po­lice said on Twit­ter it re­acted with pep­per spray and phys­i­cal force after pro­test­ers threw stones and tried to push through the po­lice line.

Small protests also took place in Krakow, Lodz and Szczecin.

‘‘It’s sick that such con­tro­ver­sial things are be­ing de­cided at a time when the en­tire so­ci­ety lives in fear [of the pan­demic] and is afraid to go into the streets,’’ Mar­i­anna Dobkowska (41) said.

Protests in War­saw dis­persed early yes­ter­day, ac­tivists calling for fur­ther gath­er­ings that evening.

Con­ser­va­tive val­ues have played a grow­ing role in pub­lic life in Poland since the na­tion­al­ist Law and Jus­tice party came into power five years ago. Curb­ing ac­cess to abor­tion has been a long­stand­ing am­bi­tion of the party but it has stepped back from pre­vi­ous leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als amid a pub­lic back­lash.

‘‘To­day Poland is an ex­am­ple for Europe, it’s an ex­am­ple for the world,’’ Kaja Godek, a mem­ber of the ‘‘Stop Abor­tion’’ pub­lic ini­tia­tive, said.

Women’s rights and op­po­si­tion groups re­acted with dis­may.

‘‘The worst­case sce­nario that could have come true has come true. It is a dev­as­tat­ing sen­tence that will de­stroy the lives of many women and many fam­i­lies,’’ lawyer Kamila Ferenc, who works with an NGO help­ing women de­nied abor­tion, said.

Coun­cil of Europe Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights Dunja Mi­ja­tovic called it a ‘‘sad day for women’s rights’’. — Reuters

 ?? PHOTO: AGENCJA GAZETA VIA REUTERS ?? Tak­ing pains to protest . . . Peo­ple re­act to tear gas dur­ing a protest in War­saw against tighter abor­tion laws.
PHOTO: AGENCJA GAZETA VIA REUTERS Tak­ing pains to protest . . . Peo­ple re­act to tear gas dur­ing a protest in War­saw against tighter abor­tion laws.

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