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Poland’s New Abortion Law Sparks Protests

Over the last four days, thousands of women have stormed the streets of Poland, protesting a recent court ruling that drastically restricts their right to access safe and legal abortions. Tens of thousands of people have been marching in Poland for more than a week to protest a new high court ruling that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, blocking major roads and bridges and chanting anti-government slogans.

On Thursday, it was ruled that an existing law allowing abortions of malformed foetuses was unconstitutional, immediately provoking an outcry from women and pro-choice activists across the country. In the ruling, the constitutional tribunal’s president, Julia Przylebska, said that permitting abortions in the case of foetal deformities legalised “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity,” The New York Times reported. Since the Polish constitution assures a right to life, Przylebska argued that an abortion based on a foetal malfunction was “a directly forbidden form of discrimination.”

Poland’s abortion laws were already considered some of the strictest in Europe. Now, once the court’s decision is enacted, abortions will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or if there is a threat to the mother’s life. Undeterred by the recent crackdown by riot police, demonstrators have said they will continue to stage protests across the country until the ban is revoked.

Groups of young men and women confronted priests and protesters painted graffiti on the walls of churches and cathedrals across the country. Since the beginning of the demonstrations, far-right activists have been defending churches and confronting the protesters, sometimes using physical force, in a reflection of what critics say is an alliance between the government, the Catholic Church and far-right groups.

Key Questions:

  1. What sparked the protest and how has it grown in recent weeks?

  2. What is significant about the new restriction?

  3. What is your reaction to the protests? Do you support the protesters? Why?

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