Poles stage new protests over planned abortion restrictions
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish women again donned black and took to the streets on Sunday, launching another round of protests against efforts by the nation's conservative leaders to tighten Poland's already restrictive abortion law.
A large group gathered Sunday outside the parliament building in Warsaw, chanting "We have had enough!" Polish media reported that similar protests were happening in cities and towns across the country.
The street protests are expected to continue on Monday, when some women also planning a strike, boycotting jobs and classes.
Similar protests took place earlier this month against a proposal for a total ban on abortion. But lawmakers rejected that proposal after massive crowds of women dressed in black staged streets protests under their umbrellas in the rain.
The latest round of demonstrations, held under the slogan "We are not putting our umbrellas away," was organized in response to a new proposal that would fall short of a total ban, but outlaw abortions in cases where fetuses are unviable or badly damaged.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the ruling Law and Justice party, said recently he wants the law to ensure that women carry their fetuses to term even in cases of Down Syndrome or when there is no chance of survival. The move would allow for baptisms and burials, Kacynski said.
His socially conservative party won parliamentary and presidential elections last year with the support of Poland's powerful Roman Catholic church, Catholic media outlets and religious voters. Many observers see the attempts to further restrict abortion as a way for the party to re-pay its debt to its religious base.
However, the proposals have proven too restrictive for many Poles, including some who voted for the party.
Abortion was legal and easily available under communism in Poland, but after communism's fall the country re-embraced many of its Catholic traditions. The current law, passed in 1993, bans most abortions, with exceptions only made in cases of rape, if the mother's life or health is at risk, or if the fetus is irreparably damaged.
Official statistics show there were 1,040 legal abortions in Poland last year, although many more abortions are known to take place, with women or traveling to neighboring countries for the procedure or ordering abortion-inducing pills online.