Poland is a predominantly Catholic nation where abortion rights are already under threat. As it stands, the procedure is only allowed in the cases of rape, incest, to save the life of the mother, and if the fetus won’t be viable.
But a new law may soon ban abortions in all instances except to save the mother’s life. That means rape victims will be forced to have the baby, miscarriages could be considered criminal, and doctors may hesitate to help women in those circumstances lest they be accused of being complicit in a crime. Women who have abortions may end up in jail for up to five years while the doctors who assist them also stand to be prosecuted.
The extreme measure is why millions of Polish women are participating in a strike today that could effectively halt the economy:
When on 23 September the Polish parliament voted for Stop Abortion’s proposals to be scrutinised by a parliamentary committee, pro-choice activists responded by calling a nationwide strike, or “national absence campaign”, by women, encouraging them to take a day off work and domestic tasks and gather for meetings or demonstrations, to donate blood or do charity work.
“My mother is very Catholic, goes to church every Sunday, and is against abortion just because you might not want the child,” says Małgorzata Łodyga, a junior doctor who supports the strike. “But she is against this law, because if a woman is raped, she will be treated worse than the man who raped her.”
Beyond the strike, some women are fighting back by wearing black clothing in solidarity with each other and sending wire hangers to Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who supports the proposed law, as a symbol of the dangerous lengths some women will have to go to if this legislation is passed.
Law and Justice, the ruling conservative party behind this legislation, says they’re willing to compromise by allowing abortions if the fetus isn’t viable… but the rape/incest bans would still be in place.
It’s an awful law that would turn Catholic doctrine into secular legislation. Women don’t have much control over their own bodies as is; why put their lives in even more jeopardy?
At least there’s a movement to make abortion slightly more permissible. A petition started by the pro-choice coalition Save Women argues for legalized abortion through 12 weeks of pregnancy. It’s been signed more than 215,000 times.