Polish parliament rejects near-total abortion ban after protests

Polish parliament rejects near-total abortion ban after protests

WARSAW – Reuters
Polish parliament rejects near-total abortion ban after protests

REU Photo

Following protests by tens of thousands of women, Polish lawmakers on Oct. 6 rejected plans for a near-total ban on abortion, in a hastily arranged vote that marks the first major domestic setback for the conservative government. 

The ruling Law and Justice party (PIS) unexpectedly withdrew its support for draft proposals drawn up by an independent anti-abortion campaign group after an unscheduled parliamentary committee meeting late on Oct. 5. 

“PiS continues to back the protection of life,” party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a devout Catholic, told parliament. “And it will continue to take action in this respect but it will be considered action.” 

Since winning a parliamentary majority last October, the economically left-leaning PiS has appeared firmly in control, thanks to a mix of generous welfare payouts, promises to help poorer Poles and nationalist rhetoric laced with Catholic piety. 

However, it appears to have failed to correctly gauge public support for the party’s socially-conservative agenda. Some of the women who joined the Oct. 3 protest rallies against the abortion plans had previously voted for PiS but felt it was not for the authorities to further curtail their right to choose. 

Poland remains one of Europe’s most staunchly Catholic nations but the clergy’s sway over their parishioners has steadily waned during more than two decades of democratization and market reforms since the 1989 fall of communism. 

The rejected proposal, which had the backing of Poland’s powerful Catholic bishops, would have banned abortion in all cases except when there was a direct danger to the mother’s life. 

The current rules, still among the most restrictive in Europe, allow termination in the case of incest, rape, serious concerns for the mother’s health or when the baby is likely to be permanently handicapped.