Polish lawmakers defeat proposal to further limit abortion

After thousands of women took to the streets to protest, the legislature rejected the proposal by a 352-58 vote on Thursday. 

Czarek Sokolowski/ AP
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, right, head of the ruling Law and Justice party, talks to party members before votes in the parliament to reject a proposal to restrict the abortion law in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016., 2016. He was one of the lawmakers who objected a proposal by an anti-abortion group that would have imposed a total ban on abortion.

On Thursday, Polish lawmakers listened to tens of thousands of women who had taken to the streets in protest this week, and rejected a proposed law make all abortions illegal by a 352-58 vote.

Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in European Union, allowing the procedure only in cases of rape, incest, when the mother’s health is in danger, or where the fetus is extremely unhealthy. The proposed law would have criminalized abortion under any circumstance and punished women seeking abortions, and doctors who performed them, with five years in jail.

In the wake of the rejection, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo stated that her government will work to protect human life in other ways, including increased budget spending on families with disabled children, and launching a campaign to "promote the protection of life."

The abortion ban was proposed by a citizen group that collected 450,000 petition signatures and earned the support of the Roman Catholic Church. However, despite the fact that Poland is overwhelmingly Catholic and, in some ways, increasingly conservative, the proposed law was very unpopular with Poles.

Women, particularly those protesting earlier this week, rejected the idea of forcing rape victims to bring their babies to term, and were afraid that women who miscarried would fall under government suspicion. Yet even among the vocal group of opponents who took to the streets earlier this week to protest the proposed abortion ban, there may be little desire to see abortion further legalized in Poland.

“Polish law says that abortion is illegal and a crime,” Michał Łuczewski, a sociologist at the University of Warsaw and the Center for the Thought of John Paul II, told The Christian Science Monitor in April. “In the West it's different, abortion is regarded as a human right.”

The current law allowing abortion in certain extreme circumstances, including rape and when the mother’s health is in danger, was put on the books in 1993, soon after the end of the communist era – meaning that, for many young people, the strict laws are all they have ever known. Therefore, they are more likely to see abortion as morally wrong than older generations who grew up when abortions were legal and commonly performed, according to Dr. Łuczewski.

The result of the vote puts the ruling party, the Law and Justice party (PiS), in a tough spot.

Ultra-conservative and Catholic supporters of PiS wanted to see further restrictions to the 1993 abortion law, although not necessarily a full ban. Thursday's vote puts the party at odds with the Roman Catholic Church, which rejects all abortions, and many of its core voters who also wanted to see further restrictions.

But the party's support also stems from centrist voters and young people attracted by PiS’s promises to level out the economic differences that have plagued the country since the end of the communist era.

"While inequality has actually decreased in the past decade, perceptions are the reverse," the Monitor's Sara Miller Llana and Monika Rębała reported last month:

So PiS policies, such as subsidies for each child, draw supporters who overlook the party’s conservative or nationalist politics, [Rafał Jaros, head of the Institute of Social and Economic Research in Lodzhe] says.

In turn, the PiS administration has alienated critics who feel it is moving Poland – a free-market poster child of post-Soviet Europe – away from the European Union, as it takes control of courts and media.

Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Polish lawmakers defeat proposal to further limit abortion
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today