Poland’s top court has enforced a controversial near-total ban on abortion in country which takes effect today.
Thousands of people gathered outside the constitutional court building in the capital Warsaw, defying lockdown restrictions, to protest against the decision.
Protesters marched through the city centre to the ruling party’s headquarters with signs of the leading “Women’s Strike” group and pro-LGBT rights rainbow flags.
The constitutional court issued a justification on Wednesday of a ruling in October that said aborting foetuses with congenital defects violated the constitution – only permitting terminations in cases where there is a risk to the woman’s life or in instances where a crime has taken place, such as rape or incest.
But in 2019, 98% of abortions carried out in Poland were due to congenital defects.
After the court published its explanation, the country’s right-wing nationalist government published it in a government journal, meaning a near total ban has taken legal effect.
The October decision prompted almost two weeks of huge protest rallies – some of which led to clashes with police.
Further protests are planned in the next couple of days across the country by women’s groups, as more Poles show their discontent with the government.
Opposition parties have strongly criticised the new law, especially the Civic Platform party, who condemned it as “a provocation” by the government.
“The government is trying to cover up its incompetence (in dealing with the pandemic) and is doing that in a cynical way,” Civic Platform leader Borys Budka tweeted.
Another opposition leader, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, tweeted urging the government to “save the economy, don’t set Poland ablaze”.
A prominent lawmaker for Law and Justice, Marek Suski, said work would begin on an entirely new abortion law that will take into account lethal defects.
It would replace the current 1997 law, based on a compromise with the Catholic Church and widely criticised.
In Poland, around 2,000 legal terminations are performed each year but an estimated 200,000 women have abortions illegally or travel abroad for the procedure.
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