Tens of Thousands of Poles Protest Plan to Restrict Abortion

(Bloomberg) -- Poles took to the streets in protest against plans supported by the conservative ruling party to tighten what are already some of Europe’s most restrictive rules on abortion.

Parliament reopened debate this week on a proposal seeking to ban abortion in cases where the fetus is irreversibly damaged. The proposed legislation would tighten restrictions that already forbid the termination of pregnancies in all cases except rape, incest and when the mother’s or the fetus’s life is in danger.

In the Polish capital some 55,000 people demonstrated near parliament and the ruling Law & Justice party’s headquarters, according to estimates from Warsaw municipal authorities, nearly 10 times more than expected by the organizers. Smaller protests were held in major cities, including Poznan, Krakow, Gdansk and Szczecin.

Law & Justice, which has vowed to return Poland to its Christian roots, took up the issue again after a 2016 plan to implement a near-total abortion ban failed in the face of demonstrations that attracted more than 100,000 people. The Polish Catholic Church weighed as well, saying that prolonged parliamentary proceedings were a source of concern.

“There are six countries in the world where the church has reached its goal and abortion is totally banned,” said Bozena Przyluska, one of the organizers of the march. “Women are dying there in illegal abortions or sit in prison for attempting them. We can’t allow that to happen.”

Nils Muiziecks, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe rights watchdog, urged Polish lawmakers to reject the bill. He said it would further restrict women’s sexual and reproductive freedoms and put Poland at odds with its international human-rights obligations.

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