After one victory, the women of Poland are still fighting restrictive abortion bans
Earlier this month, Polish women were able to stop a complete ban on abortion that would have included actual jail time for women. Now, Polish women are protesting abortion laws the government introduced in place of the total ban. Much like TRAP laws in the United States, it’s a way to make it as hard as possible to terminate a pregnancy without making it completely illegal. It’s a huge victory that the protests were successful in blocking jail time for getting abortion (up to five years for the woman and the doctor), but now Polish lawmakers want to make abortions illegal if the fetus’ health is in danger, even if it has no chance of survival after birth.
Right now, getting an abortion in Poland is already difficult. There are exceptions for “severe” health issues for the fetus (which the new proposals would get rid of), the mother, or when the pregnancy is due to rape or incest. Also, access to birth control has been tightened, and the only over-the-counter options are condoms. Many women travel to neighboring countries like Slovakia, where abortion is legal, to terminate their pregnancies. So Polish women are already burdened by the laws, with or without the new bans.
Even in the most conservative states in America there are exceptions when it comes to the fetus’ health or the welfare of the mother (though they are being challenged all the time). Outlawing abortion even if a fetus won’t survive is cruel and ridiculous. The new laws were brought about by Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of the Law and Justice party (Pis), which is in control of Polish parliament right now. According to The Guardian, he wants to be sure that a fetus “ends up in birth” even if it is “certain to die, very deformed.” All so it can be baptized and named.
Lovely, right? It’s an extreme case of a government, comprised of mostly males, imposing a set of values that dictate how a woman manages her body. The bans on abortion even in the case of fetal illness also include a ban on pre-natal testing, so a woman wouldn’t even know what medical issues the fetus might have before giving birth.
There are lots of little exceptions and regulations the women protesting are hoping to stop, much like they did with the original drafts of the law that criminalized abortion. The protests are being organized, in part, by a group called The Nationwide Women’s Strike, against the government and its ally — the Roman Catholic Church. A 62-year-old woman, Krystyna, told Reuters on Sunday at a Warsaw protest that she was there because she doesn’t want her “daughters to be forced to [give birth to deformed infants].”
Last time, so many women didn’t show up for work that lawmakers were forced to back down a bit, but the women must have known this was coming. After the protests earlier in October, even Catholics said they didn’t support laws that would punish women for having an abortion. But Prime Minister Beata Szydło said in a statement that the government would introduce fresh proposals by the end of the year, hinting that new restrictions would be modest, according to The Guardian. She also offered a plan for more money to be given to families with disabled children, so this was bound to happen.
There’s nothing modest about forcing a person to do anything they don’t want to do, especially if it’s detrimental to their health and livelihood. The women of Poland, along with abortions rights advocates everywhere, have a long fight ahead of them.