A controversial proposal to ban abortion in Poland appears to have collapsed after the ruling Law and Justice party backed away from it following mass street protests last Monday.
Rattled by nationwide protests by women dressed in black, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s government is trying to distance itself from a draft abortion proposal, which is backed by the Catholic Church, members of her party and powerful pro-life groups.
The move came just ahead of a European Parliament debate on women’s rights in Poland scheduled for Wednesday evening.
Jaroslaw Gowin, the Polish Deputy Prime Minister, said that the protests “caused us to think and taught us humility”, the NPR reports. “There will not be a total abortion ban,” added Gowin.
Prime Minister Szydlo also ruled out restricting abortion further in the devotedly religious nation.
"I want to state very clearly that the [Law and Justice] government is not working on any legislation changing the rules on abortion in Poland," she said Tuesday, according to the BBC.
According to reports in The Guardian, the justice and human rights committee in the Polish parliament’s upper house had recommended that the law be rejected: “In a humiliating climbdown, the legislation was thrown out by [Law and Justice] members who had referred it to their committee in the first place less than two weeks ago.”
On Monday, 100,000 women took to the streets of the capital city, Warsaw, as well as in Gdansk, Lodz, Wroclaw and Krakow. The protesters, who wore black as a sign of mourning for their reproductive rights, also waved wire coat hangers, an item long associated with underground abortions.
Poland’s existing abortion law is already one of the most restrictive in Europe. Abortion is permitted in only three cases: a severe foetal anomaly, a threat to the mother’s health and life, or a pregnancy from rape or sexual abuse.
Poland’s draconian abortion legislation replaced communist-era laws, which made abortion widely available for four decades. Since the strict laws were passed in 1993, the number of legal abortions performed annually fell from more than 100,000 to fewer than 1000.