Thousands of people dressed in black protest Poland’s near-total abortion ban

Poland’s abortion regulations are among the strictest in Europe.

People attend the anti-government, pro-abortion demonstration in front of Polish Pariament in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
People attend the anti-government, pro-abortion demonstration in front of Polish Pariament in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

A near-total abortion ban in the eastern European nation of Poland is being met with large scale opposition, as black-clad protesters marched on Polish parliament on Saturday.

The rally, called the “Black Protest,” was held by the pro-choice “Save Women” group as they waved flags and banners that said “We need doctors, not police” and “Stop the fanatics in power.”

“I am really angry about these guys in suits who want to make decisions about the lives of people who find themselves sometimes in unbearable situations,” Anna Blumsztajn, a high school teacher, told AFP at the demonstration.

The ruling coalition in Poland is extremely conservative. It recently proposed a bill to almost totally ban abortion — except in cases where the mother’s life is in jeopardy — and raise the prison sentence for having an abortion from two years to five years.

Poland already has stringent restrictions on abortion. Following pressure from the Catholic Church, the country passed a law in 1993 that stipulates a woman can only obtain an abortion if “there is proof of rape or incest, the mother’s life is endangered or the fetus is severely malformed,” according to the Guardian. A recent poll by Newsweek Polska showed 74 percent of nationals want to keep the current legislation in place.

Though abortion is accessible in most of Europe, Poland is a notable exception. Every year, tens of thousands of women travel outside the country to end unwanted pregnancies.

Poland made news last summer when Dutch activists with the group “Women on Waves” planned a mission to fly abortion pills from Germany into Poland by drone — a stunt specifically intended to raise awareness about the lack of abortion rights in the country.

“In Poland, even women who could have an abortion under Polish law are often denied it because Catholic hospitals don’t help them, even if their life is in danger,” Rebecca Gomperts, a doctor and founder of Women on Waves, told the Guardian. “Rich people can go to Germany or the UK to have abortions, but it’s the women who don’t have the means or access to information who are suffering.”