Activists backed by Catholic church want parliament to allow terminations only when needed to save a woman’s life
Warsaw, where more than 1,000 campaigners took part in an anti-abortion rally. Photograph: Czarek Sokołowski/AP
Agence France-Presse in Warsaw
Sunday 15 May 2016 19.21 BST
Last modified on Monday 16 May 2016 12.21 BST
Anti-abortion groups have held marches across Poland in support of calls for a near-total ban on terminations in the staunchly Catholic country, where abortions are already heavily restricted.
The current law adopted in 1993 bans all terminations except in pregnancies that result from rape or incest, pose a health risk to the mother, or where the foetus is severely deformed.
Now activists backed by the Catholic church want to table a citizens’ bill in parliament that would allow abortions only when necessary to save a woman’s life. The proposal would also increase the maximum prison sentence for people who perform unauthorised abortions from two years to five.
A Polish abortion ban would turn women back into childbearing instruments
“Today we are calling on our state authorities to guarantee full legal protection of unborn children,” Paweł Kwaśniak, the head of the Warsaw-based anti-abortion NGO that organised the protests, told more than a thousand people at a rally in the capital.
Organisers said similar rallies were held on Sunday in 140 towns across the country.
Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which was elected in November, has endorsed the restrictive bill at the risk of alienating voters.
The petition needs 100,000 signatures to be examined by parliament. The organisers have said they will continue trying to gather signatures until the end of June.
However, an opinion poll published in March found that, far from supporting further restrictions, 51% of Poles want wider access to abortions. Thousands of people have attended protests against the proposed tightening of the law, with opponents launching their own plan to garner 100,000 signatures supporting a bill liberalising abortion.
Three former Polish first ladies have denounced the citizen’s bill, insisting that making it harder to access abortions would only “aggravate women’s tragedy”.
Fewer than 2,000 legal abortions take place in Poland each year. There are no official statistics on the number of illegal abortions performed, or on the number of women who travel abroad for the procedure to countries including Austria, Germany and Slovakia, which women’s rights organisations estimate to be between 100,000 and 150,000 a year.