On October 22, 2020, a constitutional tribunal in Warsaw effectively banned abortions in Poland. Before the decision, which cannot be appealed, Poland already touted some of the strictest abortion laws in the European Union, allowing for pregnancy terminations only for fetal abnormalities, threat to the mother’s health or in the case of rape or incest. The decision circumvents the legitimate legislative channels and takes a giant bite out of the already dwindling rights of women in the Roman-Catholic-controlled country. The tribunal ruled that abortions on the basis of fetal abnormalities violates the dignity of human life, a principle enshrined in the Polish Constitution. It further held that such abortions go against the principle of nondiscrimination and respect for human life, and that a fetus acquires those rights at conception.
It seems every westernized nation in the world is in a polarized struggle between the conservative minority and the new liberal majority. The Catholic conservative stranglehold on control and power in Poland has been loosening throughout the years, and it is now evident that drastic measures are being taken by desperate heads of state in last ditch attempts to halt and reverse progress. Similar fights are being waged on women’s rights all over the world. We in the US know this fight too well, as we are constantly reminded of how tenuous the protections given to us by Roe v Wade are during every election cycle.
But the story of the Polish protests is an example of how societal engagement of the majority can effect change against limiting regimes. The Polish people have shown up in droves, by the hundreds of thousands, for weeks on end, to protest the ruling. As a result the Polish government missed their November 2nd deadline to publish the ruling – a step necessary for the implementation of the ruling as law, seemingly a byproduct of the protests. At this time the protests are ongoing and we all wait to see what actions are taken by the Polish government in the furtherance of this war against women’s rights.
Luke Abby has documented the anger, pain and joy of these protests from the ground and we present them here for you.