Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Total abortion ban rejected after mass protests

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2016 | 10:00 AM
Polish women protest against a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion in Poland, during a demonstration near EU headquarters in Brussels, on Monday. Many women in Poland took to the streets boycotting their jobs and classes as part of a nationwide strike protesting a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion.

WARSAW, Poland (AP):

Lawmakers with Poland's ruling right-wing party voted in a tumultuous parliamentary commission session to reject a proposal for a total ban on abortion.

The decision appeared to doom an effort to add further limits to what is already one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws.

However, the proposal must still go to a vote to the full assembly of the Lower House of Parliament today. Lawmakers will then vote on whether to reject it outright or whether to return it to the commission level for further consideration.

The vote in a chaotic and emotional session yesterday came after the abortion ban proposal sparked massive protests on Monday, with large numbers of women across the nation donning black, boycotting work and school and demonstrating in the streets.

It came just before the European Parliament held an emotional debate on the situation of women in Poland. Some members called for the need to save unborn lives. Others expressed their solidarity with Polish women, some by wearing black.

 

LAW OFF THE TABLE

 

"We learned today that, for the time being, the law seems to be off the table, but I would say that this is no reason for celebration," Dutch lawmaker Sophia Veld said, arguing that current Polish law "still doesn't give women the choice".

In the two days since Monday's protests, Poland's leaders had signalled they wouldn't support the divisive ban.

Members of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, joined by lawmakers from other parties, voted against the proposal. Some said they don't approve of imposing criminal sentences on women who seek abortions. The proposal under discussion calls for prison terms of up to five years for both the women and their doctors.

Poland already outlaws abortions, with exceptions made only for rape, incest, badly damaged foetuses or if the mother's life is at risk. In practice, though, some doctors, citing moral objections, refuse to perform even legal abortions. Polish women seeking abortions typically get them in Germany or other neighbouring countries or order abortion pills online.

The anti-abortion initiative gathered 450,000 signatures in support of the total abortion ban and is supported by the Roman Catholic Church.