National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Poland lawmakers reject proposed abortion ban

Following recent large-scale abortion-rights rallies, Polish lawmakers on Thursday voted 352-58 to reject a proposed total ban on abortion care, the AP/New York Times reports.

According to the AP/Times, the proposal was "highly unpopular" among Poland residents (AP/New York Times, 10/6).

Background

In 1993, Poland enacted a law that bans abortion care except when the pregnant woman's life or health is at risk, when there are fetal anomalies or when the pregnancy is the result of a crime, such as rape or incest. The law is one of the most restrictive in Europe. In addition, according to advocates, women who qualify for abortion care often face difficulty finding a willing provider in the country.

Recently, Poland's conservative government, supported by the Catholic Church, has been pushing a measure that would impose a near total abortion ban. Under the bill, anyone who knowingly induces an abortion would have faced up to five years in prison. The measure included a limited exemption for physicians and pregnant women in cases when the procedure is intended to save a woman's life.

Lawmakers in the country began debate over the ban last month. The bill was brought before lawmakers along with a counter-proposal that aims to boost abortion access in the country. The abortion-rights bill has garnered 215,000 signatures.

On Monday, an estimated six million people rallied in protest of the proposed ban, many boycotting work and classes to do so. Dubbing the protest "Black Monday," abortion-rights supporters rallied against the abortion ban in Warsaw and about 90 other Polish cities, as well as in Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris and Barcelona. The Black Monday boycotts and rallies marked the culmination of about two weeks of protests against the proposal (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/4).

Support for abortion rights in Poland appears to have grown following the recent activism, according to The Guardian. Recent polling finds "near-overwhelming" opposition to the proposed ban as well as growing support for easing the existing restrictions (Davies, The Guardian, 10/5).

Lawmakers back away from proposed ban

On Thursday, Polish lawmakers voted 352-58 against the proposed ban (AP/New York Times, 10/6). According to The Guardian, lawmakers previously rejected a measure aimed at liberalizing the country's abortion restrictions (The Guardian, 10/5).

Prior to the vote on the proposed ban, Jarosław Gowin, minister of science and higher education, said the abortion-rights activism has "caused [leaders] to think and taught us humility." He stated, "There will not be a total abortion ban" (Domonoske, "The Two-Way," NPR, 10/5).

Prime Minister Beata Szydło, who had previously voiced support for the ban, also backed away from the measure. "I want to state very clearly that the PiS (Law and Justice) government is not working on any legislation changing the rules on abortion in Poland," she said (BBC, 10/5). Nonetheless, Szydlo said the government is planning a campaign to discourage women from seeking abortion care in certain circumstances (AP/New York Times, 10/6).

Separately, Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the Law and Justice party, suggested that the government might consider a measure that would ban abortion care sought because of fetal anomalies. However, abortion-rights supporters said they would continue to protest any proposed restriction on abortion care (The Guardian, 10/5). According to the BCC, it seems likely that the current restrictions will remain unchanged (BBC, 10/5).