Polish women protest proposed abortion ban
Poland is a Roman Catholic country. The governing party, dubbed “Law and Justice,” has close ties with the leaders of the Catholic Church, resulting in radical decisions inspired by the Church. Poland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. Abortion is allowed under three conditions only: if there is a threat to the mother’s health and life, the pregnancy is a result of rape, or when the fetus has a severe health problem. Accessibility to birth control is becoming increasingly difficult for women to get in the country because contraception, as well as sexual education, is limited.
In the fall of 2016, lawmakers attempted to introduce a law aiming to ban all abortions and impose criminal penalties on women and doctors who attempted abortion, even if the abortions occurred outside the country. Moreover, the law limited access to prenatal care and examinations. The government withdrew the proposal after the nation took to the streets and protested, but religion still influences laws and policies.
A bill prepared by a civil initiative “Stop Abortion,” which was signed by nearly 850,000 people, was adapted by the parliament for further proceedings. The aim of this bill is to enforce the new abortion laws; now, even abortions of fetuses with diagnosed congenital disorders, including Down’s syndrome, will be strictly prohibited. It assumes that every human being should have a right to be given a name, baptized and buried, but will force women to bear sickly babies.
The justification for the new law is that all human beings have a right to live, even those with severe health risks. Representatives who support this law claim that the inclination to get rid of the deformed fetus is attempted murder, and doctors who perform abortions will be liable to up to 2 years of imprisonment.
As a result, thousands of people have unified in Warsaw and other Polish cities to protest the latest bill (the number of protesters in Warsaw exceeding 55,000). The movement is called #Blackprotest. On March 23, 2018, protesters united and marched from the Parliament building to the headquarters of “Law and Justice.” Protesters held red, hand-shaped posters that read “STOP.”
Eighteen-year-old Marta Konopińska, who was a part of the protesting crowd, says, “I don’t want the government to make the abortion law stricter, but at the same time, I don’t want its full legalization. Unfortunately, abortion law problems are very often misunderstood, and social protests are assigned to radical feminist movements. I believe this decision, which is very difficult, should always be the right of every woman and her partner. Participating in the protest, I felt that the nation of our beautiful country can unify independently on age or gender. I don’t want the law to limit my choices in the future.”
Children in Polish schools attend classes called “Preparation for Living in a Family,” which includes sexual education. One of the most ridiculous aspects is that teachers are not correctly educated in this field; they are not biology teachers, but nuns, priests, or religion teachers. When I was in school, I was told not to use any artificial contraception methods. Instead, I was told I should use natural means, like measuring my temperature for identification of fertile periods. This is not the knowledge that young women should be taught when entering adulthood.
The lawmakers introducing such strict abortion laws appear to be disregarding the difficulties, both financial and otherwise, related to raising a disabled child. States offer little assistance to these families, and financial aid is very low.
Taking care of disabled children requires an enormous amount of mental strength from the parents, and unfortunately, not everyone is able to handle such strain. A baby born with severe disability has to be watched 24 hours a day. Mothers often quit their jobs, meaning that family income drastically decreases while the cost of rehabilitation increases.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the new abortion law is that women will be forced to give birth to children without any chance of survival. Lawmakers are not aware of the harm they make to parents. The worst thing parents can face is seeing their children suffering. They feed them, love them and take care of them, all the while waiting for their deaths.
Despite being on the other side of the world, I still supported #BlackProtest*. The government and Church leaders are not the ones who can decide such problems which are not easy for parents. This definitely is not one-dimensional issue that is black and white. It is very complex and involves much more life spheres than just religion.
*Not to be confused with #BlackLivesMatter
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV