The anti-choice civic bill which aims to ban all abortions in case of fetal malformation was subject of first reading in the Polish Parliament on 26th of September. The civic bill collected over 400 000 signatures of support and was proposed by the “Stop Abortion” initiative. The draft bill was debated in the Polish Sejm on Thursday the 26th and was subject to vote on Friday 27th. Polish Sejm rejected the civic bill. 421 MPs voted in total. 233 voted for rejecting the bill in first reading, 182 voted against and 6 abstained from voting. The leftist parties (Palikot Movement and Democratic Left Alliance) were fully supportive of the pro-choice agenda. Several MPs, including the Vice Marshall of the Sejm, made very strong statements despite extreme and hostile opposition from the right.
Two years ago a bill banning all abortions was passed on its first reading and was only rejected in the second reading by a small majority of votes. The restrictive law has many supporters in the conservative wing of the ruling party, the Civic Platform. The current law allows abortion only in three cases: in case of rape/incest, in case of a threat to the woman’s health and in cases of fetal malformation. According to official numbers from the Ministry of Health, there were 669 abortions in 2011, none resulting from rape or any other crime. This figure, in a country of over 38 million inhabitants, illustrates how difficult it is to access a legal abortion in practice. The Polish Government constantly ignores the harmful effects of the current legislation.
Polish ASTRA member, The Federation for Women and Family Planning, has come forward with a call to action “NO to further restrictions in the anti-abortion law” which has been circulated in the media and endorsed by several feminist, human rights and other civil society organizations. The Federation organised a press conference on 24th of September as well as was involved in facilitating short training session for left-wing party members in order to provide these MPs with pro-choice arguments. The ruling party MPs were also approached. The feminist and pro-choice allies organized a protest against the draft law in front of the Polish Sejm on September 25th (photos available here) which was supported by several media and online activities. Additionally, activists reached out to politicians directly, presenting arguments for maintaining the present legislation as well as sending emails to MPs. The debate and vote in the Parliament gained a lot of media attention and coverage with wide presence of the pro-choice and anti-choice community on TV and radio.
ASTRA Network sent a letter of support, endorsed by several ASTRA member organizations and the Center for Reproductive Rights, to the Marshal of the Polish Sejm (lower chamber of Polish Parliament), Mrs. Ewa Kopacz.