Poland: mass protests after death of pregnant woman

In Poland, a strict ban on abortions with only very few exceptions has been in place for a year. Now a pregnant woman in the town of Pszczyna has died after doctors refused to perform an abortion before the foetus's heart had stopped beating. Over the weekend tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated against the rigid abortion law. The press discusses why the protests are unlikely to die down anytime soon.

Open/close all quotes
Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Polish women fear having children

Tygodnik Powszechny says the restrictive abortion law is also to blame for the low birth rate: For the first time, the demographic situation in Poland resembles that after the Second World War: never before has the birth rate been so low. Women are waiting ever longer to get pregnant. At their demonstrations, opponents of the tighter abortion law chant the slogan 'We cannot have children if we're dead'. It is fear that is preventing Polish women from having children.

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Abortion to dominate political agenda

Bogusław Chrabota, editor-in-chief of Rzeczpospolita, expects a shift in values:

“We have issued multiple warnings in our newspaper, also from Catholic authorities, that it would be fatal to overturn the abortion compromise. To let the pendulum swing so far to the right would only result in a counter-movement that overturns the rational solutions of recent years. But [the president of the Constitutional Tribunal] Przyłębska and her fellow judges didn't listen. We will soon feel the consequences, because both the image of the deceased woman Iza and the issue of abortion will top the opposition's political agenda. The next elections could well become a referendum on this issue.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Doctors living in fear

Gazeta Wyborcza is shocked:

“In the hospital where the woman was admitted at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the staff waited until the foetus died. And the patient died. She leaves behind a husband and a daughter. The mother of this little girl will not return home because someone decided that the foetus she was carrying was more important than she was. Because abortion is illegal in this country, because the law allows so few exceptions. And on top of that doctors are afraid to use them, as they have said off the record. They are afraid to save women's lives. ... And the smaller the town, the greater the fear.”

Polityka (PL) /

Ireland as a model

In other countries, tragedies like this one have led to improvements, Polytika notes with hope:

“In Catholic Ireland, the legalisation of the right to abortion was triggered by the social shock following the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar, who died in similarly dramatic circumstances. ... In a functioning democracy, the response to such tragedies is public debate. In Ireland, the debate led to a referendum on legalising abortion. Two-thirds of the voters were in favour and the legalisation of abortion was passed in parliament. This is the way this issue should be resolved in our country as well: through a debate and a referendum preceded by an open and comprehensive information campaign.”