Polish Women Protest Against Plans to Tighten Abortion Rules

  • Marches held in 50 cities, hundreds gathered at Warsaw rally
  • Leftist groups seek to gain relevance with pro-choice protests

Thousands of women march in a protest of a new abortion law proposal in Warsaw, Poland on Jan. 17, 2018. 

Photographer: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Polish women took to the streets in protest against the conservative ruling party’s plans to tighten what are already some of Europe’s most restrictive abortion rules.

Leftist parties, which failed to win parliamentary representation in the last election in 2015, are seeking to rally supporters behind the issue, after massive protests last year forced the ruling Law & Justice party to retreat from plans to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape. Wednesday’s protests, which organizers said were held in about 50 cities, also seek to highlight the weakness of opposition lawmakers, many of whom didn’t show up at a vote last week over starting parliamentary work on a bill to liberalize access to abortions.

“We don’t need the opposition and its excuses, we need you,” activists from Women’s Strike, a network of women’s organizations, said in a social media post. Called “Deja Vu” in remembrance of last year’s demonstrations, the protests brought hundreds of people out in central Warsaw despite freezing temperatures.

Meanwhile, Law & Justice and its supporters in the Catholic Church -- who want Poland to return to its traditional religious roots and reject liberal Western values -- have drafted legislation to ban abortion if the fetus is damaged. Poland currently forbids abortions in all cases except rape and where the mother’s or fetus’s lives are in danger.

Boosted by unprecedented social handouts, the ruling party’s public support stands at 43 percent of the electorate, six percentage points more than it won in the 2015 election, according to an average of the last nine public opinion surveys compiled by Bloomberg.

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