Abortion controversy in Poland

Poland's Bishops and Prime Minister Beata Szydło have lent their support to a petition for a referendum on a general ban on the termination of pregnancies. Thousands of people demonstrated on Sunday against a reform that would toughen Poland's abortion law, already the most restrictive in Europe. The press is also at odds over the issue.

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Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

Abortion must be punished by law

Notwithstanding their support for a general ban on abortion the bishops and some of the anti-abortion campaigners have said they don't want women who have had abortions to be prosecuted. Writing in the Catholic news magazine Gość Niedzielny, Bogumił Łoziński sees this as an unwise position:

“The PiS may have a majority in parliament but it's no secret that some of its MPs want to stick to the current rules. At best they will vote to strike the permission to abort a child for genetic reasons from the law. That means it can be killed if it will be seriously ill after birth. A regulation under which women who abort despite the ban can be prosecuted would give that section of the PiS parliamentary group the ideal pretext to reject the entire project. But I appeal to these anti-abortion campaigners not to cling to their position, because by doing so they may spoil this opportunity to push through the total ban on abortion.”

T24 (TR) /

Polish PiS as authoritarian as the Turkish AKP

There are key similarities between the PiS and Turkey's ruling AKP, the liberal Internet paper T24 points out:

“Like the AKP, the Polish government believes it can disregard those who didn't vote for it, brush aside laws and do just as it pleases. It doesn't care about criticism from within or outside the country. Like the AKP in its first years in office, the Polish government is trying to ban abortion. But when the women started to demonstrate it had to backpedal - just as Erdoğan did. Such governments only understand when people go out in protest. But Poland is an EU member. Unlike the AKP it can't completely break with the rule of law and become an autocratic state. In Turkey, by contrast, nothing is left to restrain Erdoğan and the AKP.”

Népszabadság (HU) /

Poles' freedom at stake

The Polish government will meet with fierce opposition if it tightens the country's abortion law, the centre-left daily Népszabadság predicts:

“The ruling PiS wants to make abortion punishable by law. Catholic bishops prompted the plans for a total ban on abortion and the PiS now wants to push through their ideas. … If the clergy and its political arm really want to underpin their religious teachings with prison sentences the results may ultimately be counterproductive for the Church. … A Facebook comment by a Polish woman in which she rails against the plans to toughen the abortion law was shared 17,000 times. The opponents of the law know that today the freedom of the Polish people is at stake.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Ban not enough

Tightening the abortion law is a good idea but only if the move is accompanied by measures to support mothers and families, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita writes:

“Politicians must consider for themselves to what extent abortion should be made punishable by law. The right-wing populist MP Paweł Kukiz is also right when he says that people must be made more aware that abortion is fundamentally wrong. There is a popular initiative calling for the state and local authorities to support families and women who are raising disadvantaged children. These proposals must be implemented. The support must be concrete and not just theoretical.”

Polityka (PL) /

Ban would force women to use illegal means

A ban on abortion is dangerous and unjust, philosopher Jan Hartman writes in his blog for the centre-left news magazine Polityka:

“It's simply a lie to say that the number of terminated pregnancies can be reduced through tougher punishments. All it does is help the Church to push through its views and idea of the law. Above all, such a ban will force women to have illegal abortions and only increase abortion tourism. Women who secretly terminate their pregnancies under poor conditions can end up being mutilated and in the worst case can die themselves. ... Moreover the poorest won't be able to have an abortion because they won't be able to afford it.”