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Polish government rows back on all-out abortion ban following mass protests

The minister of science and higher education said the protests have “caused us to think and taught us humility”.

Polish women protest against a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion in Poland.
Polish women protest against a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion in Poland.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

A MEMBER OF Poland’s conservative government has said that there will not be a total ban on abortion in the country, admitting that mass protests by women taught the country’s leadership a lesson in “humility”.

Jaroslaw Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said the protests by women have “caused us to think and taught us humility”.

The comments appear to indicate that Poland’s conservative leadership will withhold support from the highly unpopular proposal to ban abortions, even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk.

The right-wing government, led by the Law and Justice party, is also under international pressure not to move forward with the idea, with a debate scheduled later today in the European Parliament on the situation of women in Poland.

The matter has led to mass protests by women, the largest on Monday when thousands of women turned out dressed in black. Many also boycotted work and classes.

Many men also joined women on the streets of Warsaw, Gdansk and elsewhere across the largely Catholic nation on what was dubbed “Black Monday”.

Poland already outlaws abortions, with exceptions made only for rape, incest, badly damaged fetuses or if the mother’s life is at risk. In practice, though, some doctors, citing moral objections, refuse to perform even legal abortions.

Poland Abortion A sea of umbrellas by protesters in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday. Source: Czarek Sokolowski

Abortion is also illegal in Ireland under the terms of the Eighth Amendment, which grants the equal right to life to the mother and the unborn child.

Polish women seeking abortions typically get them in Germany or other neighboring countries or order abortion pills online.

Today the Senate speaker said Poland’s upper house of parliament would not initiate work on a bill that would further restrict Poland’s abortion law.

Stanislaw Karczewski said senators would wait to see what the more powerful lower house of parliament will do.

Still, he voiced support for a ban on abortions of fetuses with Down Syndrome, something now allowed.

download (31) Source: Czarek Sokolowski

“They are wonderful children, very much loved by their parents, very loving parents, bringing a lot of warmth and a lot of love into a home. I am a great opponent of killing such children,” Karczewski said.

An anti-abortion initiative gathered 450,000 signatures in support of the total abortion ban. A parliamentary commission is now analysing it. Lawmakers voted against considering a separate initiative for a more liberal abortion law.

In Ireland, the issue of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be discussed at a Citizen’s Convention being held next week on Saturday, 15 October.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Dublin last month at the annual March for Choice, calling for abortion to be legalised.

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald

Read: Women in Poland went on strike today to protest planned new abortion laws

Read: Make no mistake, today’s March for Choice is just the beginning of a long ground war >

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