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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Poles stage new protests over planned abortion restrictions

Published 23/10/2016 | 20:11

Protesters during a rally in front of the parliament in Warsaw, Poland (AP)
Protesters during a rally in front of the parliament in Warsaw, Poland (AP)

Polish women put black clothes back on and returned to the streets to launch another round of protests against efforts by the nation's conservative leaders to tighten abortion laws.

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A large group gathered outside the parliament building in Warsaw, condemning the Catholic Church's influence on political life and chanting "We have had enough".

Similar protests took place in other cities across the country.

The street protests are expected to have their culmination on Monday, when some women are 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 politicians 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 folding up our umbrellas", was organised in response to a new proposal that would fall short of a total ban - but outlaw abortions in cases where foetuses are unviable or badly damaged.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the ruling Law and Justice party, said recently he wants a new law that would ensure that women carry their foetuses to term even in cases of Down Syndrome or when there is no chance of survival.

The move would allow for baptisms and burials, Mr Kaczynski 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 repay 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 foetus is irreparably damaged.

In many cases, however, doctors have declared themselves conscientious objectors to abortions and refuse to perform them even in those cases.

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 travelling to neighbouring countries for the procedure or ordering abortion-inducing pills online.

AP

Press Association

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