Sunday 11 December 2016

Polish parliament rejects near-total abortion ban in wake of mass protests

Matthew Day in Warsaw

Published 07/10/2016 | 02:30

Protesters in Warsaw demonstrate against the abortion bill. Photo: Reuters
Protesters in Warsaw demonstrate against the abortion bill. Photo: Reuters

Poland's parliament has voted to reject a bill proposing a near-total ban on abortion, inflicting the first serious defeat on the country's ruling socially-conservative government since it came to power last year.

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An overwhelming majority of MPs voted to kill the bill yesterday after a passionate debate that had been continued from the previous night.

However, the ruling Law and Justice party has said it will continue to pursue a tightening of the country's abortion law, though not to the degree outlined in the now dead bill.

The bill would have tightened Poland's already strict abortion law by outlawing the practice, even if the pregnancy was the result of rape and incest, and would have imposed tough prison sentences on anybody who carried out a termination.

Although not a government bill, it had won the unofficial backing of Law and Justice, which portrays itself as a guardian of Roman Catholic values.

But the proposed legislation triggered huge public anger.

On Monday, an estimated 100,000 women took to the streets in a series of protests across the country, while many more went on strike, in a demonstration of outrage that caught the government off guard, prompting a U-turn.

Scores of Law and Justice politicians decided to reject the bill yesterday, many of them reversing their decision to approve it in September.

"We have the utmost respect for those who signed the proposal [for the abortion ban]," said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader. "But we have come to the conclusion, observing the social situation, that this would be a factor leading to protests."

Mr Kaczynski also stressed his party "is for the protection of life".

Telegraph.co.uk

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