Black Monday: Women in Poland go on strike against abortion ban
Women in Poland have gone on strike in protest against proposals for a total ban on abortion.
They marched through the streets wearing black as a sign of mourning for their reproductive rights.
Women who oppose the ban are staying away from work and school and refusing to do domestic chores, in a protest inspired by a women’s strike in Iceland in 1975.
Anti-abortion protests are being held around the country too.
Women took to the streets of the capital city, Warsaw, in a pro-choice march on what they are calling “Black Monday”.
It is unclear how many women are taking part in the action and how widespread it will be beyond big cities.
If the law went through, which has cleared one parliamentary hurdle so far, went through it would make Poland’s abortion laws as restrictive as those in two other countries in Europe: Malta and the Holy See.
Women found to have had abortions would be punished with a five-year prison term. Doctors found to have assisted in an abortion would also be liable for jail time.
Critics say the law could mean women who have a miscarriage are also investigated, on suspicion of having had the pregnancy terminated deliberately.
A separate bill seeks to curb in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), allowing only one embryo to be fertilised at any one time, and banning the practice of freezing embryos.
The city hall in Czestochowa in southern Poland allowed female staff to take the day off on Monday, while several businesses have closed for the protests.
But anti-abortion activists are planning counter-protests and the Polish Bishops’ Conference asked Catholics to pray for “the conscience and the light of the Holy Spirit on all Poles who protect human life from conception to natural death”.
While pro-choice activists marched in black and tweeted pictures of themselves wearing black, anti-abortion activists choice white for the colour of their counter-protests.
Abortion is already mostly banned in Poland.
The exceptions are:
- where the woman’s life is in danger
- where there is a risk of serious and irreversible damage to the foetus
- where the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest – this must be confirmed by a prosecutor
As Poland’s law currently stands it is one of the most restrictive in Europe for women seeking abortions – the only European countries with stricter laws are Ireland, Andorra, Liechenstein, San Marino and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK whose abortion law differs from England, Scotland and Wales).
As a result, even by conservative estimates there are far more illegal abortions than legal ones in Poland – between 10,000 and 150,000, compared to about 1,000 or 2,000 legal terminations.