"Stop this bloody war against women".

Okategoriserade Mass mobilization against the ban on abortion

Mass mobilization against the ban on abortion is just another example of a new wave of grassroots mobilization in citizens protesting against the changes introduced by the conservative populist Law and Justice in Poland. Polish society becomes extremely polarized but also much more engaged and politically active.

Published on balticworlds.com on april 5, 2016

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The Roman Catholic Church in Poland and anti-choice network “STOP abortion” have launched a campaign for a total ban on abortions. The initiators started to gather signatures supporting citizen’s law proposal, which includes a total ban on abortion and the threat of criminal prosecution for both doctors and women (up to 5 years in prison). The proposal stipulates that the prosecutor can drop charges under extraordinary circumstances, e.g. if the pregnancy will be terminated to save the life of a woman. However, there is a very real chance that even women who undergo involuntary miscarriages will be punished by up to 3 years in prison, because the law proposal stipulates that the person responsible for “fetal murder”, even unintentional, may face criminal charges. Such a proposal  has to be considered by lawmakers if citizens manage to gather 100,000 signatures within a period of three months. Polish law already strictly limits access to abortion, which is illegal unless one of the three exceptions occurs: when the pregnancy is the result of criminally proven rape or incest, if the woman’s life is in danger, or the foetus is “seriously malformed”. If the new law is passed there will be no exceptions (more info http://takdlakobiet.pl/).

This is not the first time such a restrictive law has been submitted to the parliament, but for the first time the country’s leading politicians announced their support for such a proposal. Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło and the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party Jarosław Kaczyński declared that as Catholics they will support total ban on abortion, even though on earlier occasions Kaczyński denounced the need to change the already restrictive Polish law (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/31/polish-prime-minister-favours-ban-on-abortion?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Kopiuj_do_schowka). Thus, there is a real chance that this time Polish parliament will introduce a total abortion ban. This will affect not only women seeking to terminate pregnancy but also patients treated for ectopic pregnancy, cases of severe physical defects present in foetus such as spina bifida and rape survivors who will be forced by law to give birth.

The women’s movement in Poland has been vocal on the issue of abortion over the last two decades but mostly ignored by decision makers. Feminists have started to protest the new citizen’s proposal, but the present wave of mobilization seems incomparably bigger than earlier protests. This time not only the feminist movement is involved. On Sunday 3rd of April new left party ”Razem” (Together) organized rallies in Warsaw and 18 other cities. According to police seven thousand participants joined the demonstration in Warsaw and hundreds of people came to protests the ban on abortion in several smaller cities. Within a week 90.000 people joined grassroots informal network ”Dziewuchy dziewuchom” (Girls for girls) on fb. This groups joined a newly formed feminist pro-choice coalition “Odzyskać wybór” (Get choice back) which announced a plan to organize mass demonstration in Warsaw and other Polish cities on Saturday 9rd of April. Different groups and individuals undertook action as well, e.g. in Warsaw and Gdańsk groups of women started to leave churches on Sunday, when a letter of Polish bishops supporting the ban on abortion was read (https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10153656792786939/)

Other spontaneous initiatives spontaneously undertaken by women include sending the Prime Minister coat hangers as a symbol of illegal unsafe abortions and posting information about their menstruation cycles (often with some graphic details) on the Prime Minister’s facebook page under the hashtag #TrudnyOkres (“tough period”). The initiators of the action explain that since the government wants to control women’s uteruses, eggs and pregnancies, the citizens should behave like true patriots and make it easier for the authorities. (http://qz.com/654111/polish-women-are-trolling-the-anti-abortion-prime-minister-by-telling-her-about-their-periods/)

Mass mobilization against the ban on abortion is just another example of a new wave of grassroots mobilization of citizens protesting against the changes introduced by the conservative populist Law and Justice in Poland. As the new government introduces a regime change gradually dismantling the basic tenants of liberal democracy in the pursuit of total power (http://www.thenation.com/article/regime-change-in-poland-carried-out-from-within/), Polish society has become extremely polarized but also much more engaged and politically active. Mass mobilization of people opposing the ban on abortion gives us hope that women’s rights will not be marginalized by the pro-democratic movement or sacrificed in a deal between the ruling party and oppositional parties. The story of Solidarity, which introduced the current law severely limiting access to abortion in 1993, shows that such a scenario is all too real. But the new stage of the struggle for legal and safe abortion in Poland has just begun. International support and spreading information is badly needed – please sign and distribute a protest letter in Polish: https://dzialaj.akcjademokracja.pl/campaigns/aborcja

Protest letter in Swedish: http://www.skrivunder.com/stoppa_polens_totala_abortforbud

Articles in international media:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/03/warsaw-protest-against-proposed-abortion-ban

http://www.wsj.com/articles/protesters-rally-against-polands-proposed-ban-on-abortions-1459711371

And in Swedish press:

http://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/protester-i-polen-mot-totalt-abortforbud/

http://www.metro.se/nyheter/tusentals-polacker-protesterar-mot-abortforbud/EVHpdc!QMCmGbRMeivYA/

  • by Elzbieta Korolczuk

    Is a sociologist, an activist and commentator, working at Södertörn University, Sweden, and teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study, Political Critique in Warsaw. She has published on social movements, civil society and gender (especially motherhing/fatherhing and assisted reproductive technologies). Between 2001-2014 she was a member of Warsaw based informal feminist group Women’s 8 of March Alliance. She is also engaged in the activities of the Association “For Our Children” fighting for the changes in the Polish child support system and serves as a board member of “Akcja Demokracja” Foundation.

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