By Lily Wolfson
New York City, New York
Starting in late October, Polish women disobeyed COVID-19 lockdown restrictions to protest the new abortion Supreme Court ruling. The ruling made all abortions illegal except in the case of incest, rape or a threat to the mother’s life. Critics of the government said that the court ruling indicates another step towards authoritarianism in Poland and that the governing Law and Justice Party is taking advantage of a stacked court to neglect debates in parliament and COVID-19 lockdown rules to subdue protests.
With the support of Catholic organizations, the Law and Justice Party has been advocating for stricter abortion laws since April. The Law and Justice Party tasked a court comprised largely of its own appointees to review the issue of abortion. In a CBC News interview, University of Warsaw law professor Monika Platek said, “It is a test. If you can take away the human rights from women, why can’t you take the rest of those human rights from the rest of the society?”
Abortion laws in Poland were already strict before the ruling. Women could only terminate pregnancies in the case of severe fetal defects, but the recent court ruling rendered even those abortions unconstitutional. A Polish pro-life activist said, “Today Poland is an example for Europe, for the world,” whereas Platek said, “Poland should serve as a warning.”
The Law and Justice Party came to power in 2015 with the promise that they would maintain Poland’s Catholic character, but according to CBC News, opinion polls show that there is no popular desire for stricter abortion laws. However, Polish conservative lawmakers have maintained, as a point of principle that every fetus has the right to be born, named, baptized, and buried. Twice in recent years, though, the Polish government has refrained from tightening abortion laws in the midst of large protests by Polish women. Platek said, “They will be very much surprised because I don’t think that the women will shut up here.”
There have been protests across the world in solidarity with Polish women in Berlin, Cologne, Perth, New York City and other cities around the world. On October 30, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that the Polish government will try to make the abortion-related amendments to the law as soon as possible.