New Polish Court Ruling Bans Almost All Legal Abortion, Protests Ensue

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

On , Poland’s Supreme Court banned almost all types of abortion in their country. Most notably, the legislation took away abortion rights for cases of fetal abnormalities, stating that abortion due to abnormalities violates the “right to life” outlined in the Polish Constitution.

The only types of abortions allowed now include those in situations of incest or rape, or if there is a severe risk to the mother’s health. These only accounted for 2% of abortions in 2019, and therefore many are arguing this is a “draconian restriction.”, meaning excessively strict, barbaric, and harsh.

The History

This court ruling has upheld already existing strict policies in Poland regarding abortion. Poland is also one of the most patriarchal Roman Catholic countries in Europe.

The ruling party of Poland, Law and Justice Party (PiS), is extremely conservative and their policies are often backed by the country’s powerful Catholic Church. The powerful church often influences other conservative policies in the Polish government as well.

In 1993, a short while after Poland ended Communist rule, the first major law against abortion was passed. This was the first of many anti-abortion laws in Poland and created a precedent for future action. This law made the process of getting an abortion in Poland very difficult by raising costs for abortions and reducing the availability of necessary supplies in hospitals.

Unlike the new law, however, it also allowed 98% of all legal abortions to continue in Poland, because most of these were caused by fetal abnormalities. The new law aims to remove this 98% of abortions, effectively banning all abortion.

Current Barriers to Abortion

According to the Polish government,1,100 legal abortions were performed in Poland last year. However, many Women’s Health groups estimate that the total number of abortions in Poland each year– both legal and illegal — is closer to 120,000. Since abortion is so stigmatized in Poland and anti-abortion laws are prevalent in the country, woman have resorted to underground, illegal abortions which can severely harm the mother. Many women also go abroad to get these abortions in surrounding countries; however, women from lower class families are not able to afford this.

Asides from strict laws, another barrier to abortion in Poland is high prices. An abortion in Poland can cost about 800 U.S. dollars, but the average monthly salary for a Polish adult is only 300 U.S. dollars.

The Protests

This law and others in the past have not gone unnoticed by the public. This ban and previous abortion laws have actually been opposed by the public, according to many national polls. Since the legislation was proposed on Oct. 22, hundreds of thousands of people have staged protests to advocate for abortion rights.

In 2016, when a similar ban was proposed, what was known as “Black Monday” occured, where millions of women went on strike and protested for an entire day to protest anti abortion legisaltion .

These 2020 nationwide riots have been going on for over 2 weeks now, and there has been police violence against the protestors as well as condemnation from the right wing leader of the Law and Justice Party of Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński. Riots have caused closings of churches and other public buildings around the country. In addition, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many protesters were arrested under a government ban on protests.

The Future

Due to pressure from the protestors and the general public surrounding the ban, the Polish courts have delayed implementation of the ban.

In response to the protests, Polish President Andrzej Duda issued a change to the court’s ban, allowing abortions for fetuses which had “very dangerous and lethal” abnormalities. Abortions for fetuses with other disorders such as Down syndrome would still be disallowed.

Although this ban would obviously change how abortion is addressed in Poland, some say this issue is just a small part of a much larger issue occuring in the Polish government.

Many argue that this abortion ban is to distract from the fact that the conservative government is slowly losing power and that they handled the coronavirus pandemic very poorly. Another point being brought up is that the ban is a result of the PiS’s desire to continue to defend their Catholic beliefs rather than embrace the European Union’s “LGBT Ideology,” which is worse than Soviet communism, according to President Duda.

Nonetheless, one thing is certain. The citizens of Poland are tired of their authoritarian and patriarchal government attempting to take over their lives for their own. The citizens will continue to advocate for their rights, ensuring their voices are heard in a world where many want those voices silenced.

Through Teen Lenses: Have you heard about the abortion ban in Poland? If so, what do you think about it?

“I have heard about it! I’ve seen articles discussing it on CNN & New York Times, as well as a lot of conversation about it on social media. I’m really glad about this, since it will impact thousands of lives specifically on social media. Personally, I’m a catholic but I am pro-choice and I find it extremely unsettling that a developed country would even propose a restriction like this, much less try to pass it. I know poland had considerably strict abortion laws in place even before this ban, but the fact that hundreds or thousands of women who will need abortion services will have to resort to dangerous and unsanitary methods is probably my biggest concern. Again, a personal opinion, but I believe that the value of a life is determined by the sentience and/or sapience of a being. The polish government is essentially placing the value of a life that lacks sentience over one that possesses it, which also really discomforts me. Also, to my knowledge, Poland’s foster care system isn’t too impressive which creates an even larger traumatic guilt issue for the women who are being forced to give birth. Overall, I just don’t see the logic in the ban or the pro-life argument, and I really hope that the protests there will somehow stop the ban from being implemented.” Ava Nash, Sophomore at Langley High School, 15, McLean, Virginia
“I have not heard about this specific issue, but I strongly disagree with abortion bans in general. If a woman feels enough emotional, financial, or societal pressure to get an abortion, she will get the abortion regardless of whether or not it is safe and/or legal. This puts the woman at risk and potentially harms the family she might be providing for that would be left behind if something happened. Furthermore, legal abortion is essential to maintain a woman’s bodily autonomy. In today’s society, women are already disadvantaged, but banning abortion will cause so many women with so much potential to lose their futures and raise a child in less-than-ideal conditions.” Emma Cox, Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, 15, Alexandria, Virginia
“I’ve heard about the abortion ban in Poland and I believe that the option to abort should always be available, so I’m disappointed that this has even become something that the government is involved with. But, I appreciate the government’s choice to delay the implementation of the law after widespread protests and I hope that more discussion occurs before any more decisions are made.” Sheryn Livingstone, Junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, 16, Alexandria, Virginia

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