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"They’re not being listened to but they’re on the streets protesting as well"

The Irish and Polish pro-choice movements are not that different.

Poland Abortion Black-clad Polish women and some male supporters take to the streets during a nationwide day of strikes. Source: Czarek Sokolowski

LAST NIGHT, IRISH pro-choice activists stood in solidarity with women in Poland who went on strike in protest against proposed strict new abortion laws.

There were Black Monday protests in several Irish locations including Dublin and Limerick that mirrored others that took place elsewhere in the continent.

The proposed Polish laws would introduce an outright ban on abortion in the devoutly Catholic country, where the law is already among the most restrictive in Europe.

Pro-choice activists used social media to launch the country-wide strike by women, urging them to stay away from work and school to attend street protests.

Around 2,000 people rallied outside the Warsaw headquarters of the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, forming a “wall of fury” human chain.

The proposals did not come directly from politicians but from a pro-life citizens’ initiative that gathered 450,000 signatures.

Despite this, lawmakers pushed ahead with a controversial bill that would allow terminations only if the mother’s life is at risk and increase the maximum jail term for practitioners from two years to five.

The citizen’s initiative tabled in parliament by the Stop Abortion coalition would also make women who have terminations liable for prison terms, though judges could waive punishment in their case.

Poland’s influential Catholic Church gave the initiative its seal of approval earlier this year, though its bishops have since opposed jailing women.

Poland already has strict abortion laws but at present Ireland’s are more restrictive and the latent influence of Catholic teaching in both countries has drawn comparisons.

Currently in Poland, all terminations are banned except in cases of rape, incest or when there is a risk to the health of the mother.

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PastedImage-4566 Ireland's Abortion Rights Campaign organised at rally at the Polish embassy in Dublin last night. Source: Facebook

A fortnight ago, Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland spoke at an abortion rally in Warsaw and emphasised the potential synergies between campaigns in Ireland and Poland.

“They have issues with the Catholic church being very much in control over there as well, and I explained that we were in the same position,” she said, adding that women in Poland and Ireland are being similarly ignored by politicians.

They’re not being listened to but they’re on the streets protesting as well and I’m not sure the Polish state realises the amount of protest that is there against this, but we did raise it we got an opportunity to speak.

Atheist Ireland is part of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment umbrella group and Donnelly explains that the Polish pro-choice movement is organised in a similar way.

She says that Atheists Ireland has begun sharing information with its Polish counterparts on the abortion issue and that will continue into the future.

It’s not a guarantee that these new laws will come into effect and Newsweek Polska magazine showed that 74% of Poles want to keep the existing laws.

The European Parliament is also expected to debate women’s rights in Poland tomorrow.

- With reporting from © – AFP 2016

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

Read: Rónán Mullen says he doesn’t believe aborted foetuses are ‘debris’ >

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Rónán Duffy

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