Monday, 4 July 2011

Anti-Abortion Offensive

Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Yet for the conservative right it seems that even this is not enough.

Last week a bill - presented via a citizens' petition - was presented in parliament seeking to completely outlaw abortion. It passed its first hurdle and now will be sent to a commission in order to work on it further.

The current abortion law - passed in 1993 - allows for legal terminations only in a small number of cases:
- When the pregnancy constitutes a health threat to the mother
- When medical certification confirms that the foetus is terminally damaged
- When the pregnancy is a result of rape.

The proposed bill wants to get rid of all of these exceptions and completely outlaw abortion in the country.

The bill was passed in a parliamentary vote on Friday, with 254 MPs voting in favour of the bill and 151 voting against. Scandulously, the ruling Citizens' Platform (PO) allowed the bill to pass through parliament to the next commission stage. Its inability to vote en-bloc against such a restrictive bill, exposes the mockery of the party's attempt to present a left face in recent weeks.

The strong anti-abortion lobby in Poland managed to gather 600,000 signitures to force this vote in parliament. Nevertheless, its proposal runs against public opinion in the country. Only 14% of society believe that abortion should be completely illegal. This is against 36% who believe it should be illegal but with certain exceptions and 38% who feel it should be legal with some exceptions.

The women's activist and writer Agnieszka Graff has described the bill as being an 'aberrant cruelty, a kind of madness and hysterical misogyny'. She believes that the conservative right would like to move the whole debate in Poland to the right in order create a fear within the political mainstream against any attempt to even slightly liberalise the current restrictive law.

The Democratic Left Alliance organised a pro-choice exhibition outside of the parliament and are collecting signitures in order to present its own bill in parliament to liberalise the current abortion law. As the SLD MP and ex health minister - Marek Balicki - has stated:

If half of the PO and PSL MPs voted in order that the parliament deals with the matter of abortion now, in a pre-election period, then we appeal to them to ensure that our project progresses as quickly as possible to its first reading

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