Polish court effectively bans abortions

Protest+against+Poland%27s+new+abortion+laws+held+in+Gdansk+on+Oct.+24

Lukasz Katlewa

Protest against Poland’s new abortion laws held in Gdansk on Oct. 24

Sydni Bratthauar, Staff Reporter

A historic decision was made on Thursday, Oct. 22, by Poland’s higest court to ban almost all abortions. The Polish court ruled that abortions in cases of fetal defects were unconstitutional. Abortions for said defects make up 98% of abortions in Poland. Abortions will remain permitted in cases of rape, incest or if the woman’s life is in danger.

Women’s rights activists told CBS News that the repercussions of this decision would be significant. The decision will also give prison sentences to women who decide to have abortions illegally and could possibly lead to investigations into miscarriages.

The country already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. According to CNN, Poland’s populist government led by the Law and Justice Party, a strong ally of the Catholic Church, was pushing to further restrict abortion for months. This raised concerns among women’s rights and human rights activists. These groups urged the government not to increase the restrictions on abortion but were unsuccessful.

The court’s ruling caused protests throughout the country. On Friday, Oct. 23, police descended upon crowds protesting near the home of the Law and Justice Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, who influences many of the country’s political decisions.

According to CBS, police used pepper spray on protesters who threw stones and tried to break through Kaczynski’s security gate. In a video posted to social media, officers can be seen hitting a protester on the ground with a pepper spray can and spraying other protesters who tried to help.

Many critics have accused the Polish government of taking advantage of COVID-19 to push through these legislative changes while “scrutiny is minimized by lockdown procedures,” CBS reported.

A Warsaw police spokesman, Sylwester Marczak, said that 15 people at the protests have been arrested. Fourteen have now been released. The police issued 35 fines and filed 89 motions in court. Marczak defended the police force’s actions against protesters, saying that they responded to an aggressive crowd that tried to “deliberately provoke a confrontation.”

CNN’s article said that Amnesty International, an organization that helps fight for human rights, called the new abortion decision cruel and the result of “coordinated, systemic wave of attacks on women’s human rights.”