The controversial law would amend existing abortion laws—which are already the strictest in the whole of Europe—to further restrict access to abortions.
If it were to go through, the proposed amendments would see terminations made illegal, even in cases where a fetus is diagnosed with a severe and irreversible birth defect—which accounts for almost all of the already-limited number of abortions performed legally in the country currently. The tribunal cited these terminations as violations of the constitutional right to life.
Already having the strictest abortion laws in all of Europe, the further restrictions naturally prompted mass dissent.
Announced on October 22, the ruling was set to be formally published on November 2. However, the nationwide demonstrations have seemingly put a halt on things, with more than 100,000 people protesting in the city of Warsaw alone—the largest protest against the Polish government since the 1980s.
The activists are focusing their attention on the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which leans to the extreme right.
Michał Dworczyk, the head of the prime minister’s office, has called for a truce between the citizens and the state. “There is a discussion going on, and it would be good to take some time for dialogue and for finding a new position in this situation, which is difficult and stirs high emotions,” he told Polish media.
The prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has also appealed for talks with both protesters and lawmakers, while Poland's PiS-aligned president, Andrzej Duda, has suggested that abortions only be granted in cases of life-threatening birth defects, but not for conditions such as Down's Syndrome.
Protests have broken out across Europe, including the Netherlands and the U.K., with many concerned for the health and safety of women in Poland.
The near-total ban would essentially force women to seek out procedures illegally or in other countries, endangering themselves for exercising a basic human right: control over their own bodies.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 22 million unsafe abortions take place each year, and are the third leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide. They also report that unsafe abortions contribute to five million largely-preventable disabilities.
“The consequences will involve more human tragedies and the rapid growth of abortion underground. The judgment will adversely affect the most vulnerable groups, and in all likelihood, will divide Poland even further,” said Zuzanna Rudzińska-Bluszcz, a member of Poland’s human rights ombudsman.