Polish High Court upholds abortion ban despite backlash

Nathan Czapnik, is a member of the YCL’s London District 

Last Thursday (22 October 2020), Poland’s High Court ruled that all abortions will remain illegal.

This decision was made after a constitutional tribunal had reviewed the constitutionality of a controversial article from the 1993 ‘anti-abortion’ law which states that “difficult living conditions” is not an adequate condition for aborting a foetus. 

Since the ruling, a women’s strike (Strajk Kobiet) has culminated in all of Poland’s major urban centres, with thousands of demonstrators demanding that “we are not going to work” unless the ruling is overturned.  

As a means of declaring a strike, many women in Poland have not only stepped out of their workplaces, but have also refused to do domestic chaws to place emphasis on the importance of reproductive rights. 

Currently the Strajk Kobiet is in its sixth day.

This is not the first time a women’s strike has occurred. On March 8, 2018 a strike with the same message demanded that the Polish court grants women their reproductive rights. 

In response to the strike, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski declared that the police react violently toward the protesters “in the face of further attempts of similar acts of aggression and desecration announced by the leaders and organisers of the protests.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Polish party Law and Justice has branded the women strikers as “criminals” who want to “destroy the Polish nation”. 

Kaczynksi also went a step further by encouraging supporters of Law and Justice to “defend the Church” by challenging the protesters, emphasising the between the Church and State.  

Many perceive the current government’s intolerance towards women’s rights as having arisen from the growing influence of the Catholic Church in state matters. 

This year, disputes over the anti-LGBT zones were heightened when many religious sites of worship across Poland had begun subscribing to the Church’s view that homosexuality was equated to paedophilia, bringing forth some in the clergy to even contemplate preach for the sterilisation and even the extermination of homosexuals. 

State violence towards the protesters is only a part of what the women involved have endured. Reports of religious fundamentalists and Law and Justice partisans beating up women protesters have emerged. 

Some of these attackers are even reported to be armed with batons, mace and knives. 

In a statement to Challenge, the Communist Party of Poland (KPP) has said: 

The KPP condemns the judgment of the so-called Constitutional Tribunal concerning the prohibition of abortion in the event of severe damage to the fetus. We believe that this ruling party-controlled body, controlled by manipulation by PiS nominees, is trying to impose religious prohibitions on the whole society that are inconsistent with the current state of medical knowledge and contemporary ethics.”

It is not without reason that the decision in such a controversial case, postponed until the period after the elections, was taken by the Tribunal during the escalation of the pandemic, when the organization of assemblies and protests was banned.”

Forcing women to give birth to terminally ill, deformed children, incapable of independent and conscious life is a crime. This will contribute to the tragedy of many women and entire families, especially those of the working class, the excluded and the poor. Currently, the Polish state does not provide adequate care even to people with a lesser degree of disability. Forcing a woman to give birth to a child that is irrevocably sentenced to death is torture, prohibited by all civilized laws.

The decision to give birth to a disabled child should be made only by the woman and be the result of a conscious, moral choice. Believers who are attached to the orders of the hierarchs of the Catholic Church have the right to do so. We stand for religious freedom for believers; however, the principles of religion cannot be imposed on society at large.”

The main driver of reactionary, ideological changes in legislation is the Catholic Church. We believe that a real separation of church and state is necessary. Church hierarchs should be removed from political and public life. It is also necessary to adopt standards prohibiting the combination of state events with religious elements, prohibiting religious indoctrination in education and other areas of life, and ending supporting religious organizations from the state budget.”

The KPP supports protests against reactionary changes in the law. At the same time, we would like to remind you that this fight also has a class dimension. It will not be won by capitalist politicians who have proven more than once that they combine reactionary socio-economic views with submission to the Catholic Church and religious indoctrination. We express our appreciation to all organizations and people protesting against the totalitarian interference of the authorities in the life of society, and we call on everyone to participate in the protests.

Nathan Czapnik

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