Throughout the past few weeks or so, you may have heard of nationwide protests in Poland. On October 22nd, the Constitutional Tribunal instituted a law declaring that abortions for malformed fetuses to be unconstitutional, thus banning what few abortions were allowed in the country. Thousands of Polish women and their allies have taken to the streets to protest the government’s decision; protests beginning the same day the law was announced. On the next day, people took to the streets in 60 Polish cities. On October 24th, people protested in more public spaces and even in front of homes of far-right activists. The following day, protestors staged sit-ins in places of worship, disrupting mass in several cities.
On October 27th, the All-Poland Women’s Strike revealed a list of demands which included the following:
- Full women’s rights: legal abortion, sex education, and contraception,
- Interpreting the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling as stated by the president of the tribunal, Julia Przyłębska, as her personal testimony instead of a legal ruling,
- “The return of a real (independent) Constitutional Tribunal,”
- “The return to a neutral (independent) Supreme Court of Poland that is not controlled by PiS,”
- “The appointment of a real (independent) Polish Ombudsman to succeed Adam Bodnar, who reached the end of his term,”
- The overthrow of the rule of the Law and Justice Party.
By October 28th, approximately 430,000 people had participated in protests in 430 cities throughout the country. The movement garnered nationwide support under the slogan: “I’m not going to work.” Many workplaces have allowed their employees to protest. Universities, several local media outlets, and a few companies, including MBank have also voiced their support for the strikes.
Following the mass protests, President Andrzej Duda unveiled a bill that would restore legal abortion under three grounds: “ because of a threat to the life and health of the mother,  because of rape or incest and  because of severe and irreversible damage to the fetus which leads to the death of the child.” Despite this proposal, the government has yet to renounce the law and has chosen to delay its publication and implementation as announced on November 3rd.
As of the writing of this article, November 8th, the protests are still ongoing. However, this is not the first time protests for abortion have occurred in Poland. In 2015, a bill proposing the outright ban of all abortions was rejected. The former led to the “Czarny Protest” (Black Protest), in 2016. when restrictions surrounding abortions were tightened.
With the ongoing situation, there are still developments to come, and Poland must not be forgotten. According to Amnesty International on October 29th, protestors have faced excessive force from the police and have been unlawfully detained without access to a lawyer. On top of police interference, there have been non-state agitators who have identified themselves with white armbands. These agitators were seen attacking protestors and even pepper spraying former minister and member of parliament Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz. Sienkiewicz described the agitators as neo-Nazis who were encouraged by Poland’s de facto leader Jarosław Kaczyński. During the commotion, he noted that there was a lack of police presence.
By Angélique Chu