Wielding coat hangers, a coalition of sixty abortion rights groups organized a rally in Warsaw, Poland, over the weekend to protest a proposed law that would further restrict legal abortions in the country.
One of the protesters, Anna Jakobic, said that the right to an abortion must be defended, especially if one has a baby with disabilities. “No government can decide this. Maybe they also want to prohibit oncological operations? Cancer is also live tissue,” she said.
Poland’s current legislation, dating back to 1993, bans abortions except when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, poses a “health risk” to the mother, or if the fetus bears an anomaly, such as Down Syndrome.
The Prenatal Life Protection Law, backed by the prime minister, Beata Szydło, would ban abortion outright. The new bill, which has been submitted to the Polish parliament, acknowledges that rape is an evil act, but prohibits “punishing the child” for the crimes of the rapist.
According to opponents, the Law and Justice party (PiS), which was voted into office last October, carries “an agenda of nationalist conservatism, Euroscepticism and Catholic propaganda.”
Abortion activists reportedly organized “solidarity protests” in several other European cities as well, and a few hundred people demonstrated in front of the Polish embassy in London, shouting “my body, my choice.”
The weekend demonstrations underscored the tremendous impact that the American abortion lobby has had on Polish society and the abortion debate in particular. It was the American feminist Ann Snitow who first brought modern abortion technology to Poland in the early 1990s.
The use of coat hanger imagery by protesters was also imported into Europe by U.S. abortion-rights groups as a symbol of illegal, “back-alley” abortions.
“The thing is, I don’t think women in Poland ever used hangers. I think that’s strictly American,” said Polish abortion activist and researcher Agata Chełstowska.
At the annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March, the head of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) suggested said that being pro-abortion really means being pro-life.
“We care about the woman’s life, and the child who’s coming—if they are sick, like Zika, what we are hearing—or thrown on the streets, or kidnapped, or dead. We want all alive, and healthy, and productive, and equal to all humanity. We dare to talk about abortion,” said IPPF President Tewodros Melesse during the New York event.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament will vote on Wednesday on a motion that accuses Polish authorities of undermining “constitutional democracy.”
“Recent events in Poland,” the text reads, “have given rise to concerns regarding the ability of the Constitutional Court to uphold the constitution and guarantee the respect for the rule of law.”
The first draft of the motion included a direct reference to Poland’s proposed ban on abortion but it was removed from the final version, as well as mentions of other controversial laws on public media and the civil service.
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