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Poles stage mass protests over new abortion bill

Thousands have demonstrated in Poland's major cities against a proposed law that would place further restrictions on abortion in the country. Poland's parliament recently rejected a total ban on the procedure.

Polish women gathered by the thousands across the country on Monday to protest a renewed push to tighten the country's abortion laws. The women wore black as they marched through Warsaw, Gdansk, Lodz, and many other cities in opposition to what they see as an overstepping of Roman Catholic values into secular government.

"We're fighting for a secular state, the right to contraception and equal pay among men and women among other things," said one organizer, Kamila Majer, at the Warsaw protest.

The demonstration, the latest in a series of similar protests, was in opposition to a proposed measure that would outlaw abortion in cases where fetuses are known to face severe health problems or are unlikely to survive for long after birth.

Similar protests earlier in October were successful in stopping the right-wing government from outright banning abortion and imposing a five-year jail sentence on women who seek out the procedure and on doctors who perform it. After Poland's parliament scrapped the bill, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said that they would not stop seeking to limit the number of abortions in Poland.

"We will strive to ensure that even difficult pregnancies - when the child is sure to die, severely deformed - will result in birth, so that the child can be baptized, buried and have a name," Kaczynski said in an interview with Polish news agency PAP.

Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the European Union. Terminating a pregnancy is only allowed in cases of rape, incest, health risks to the mother or if the fetus has serious health defects. Official estimates hold that the legal number of abortions in the country is about 2,000 per year. However, women's rights organizations say that the laws have forced somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 women to find other, illegal means to have the procedure.

es/gsw (AP, AFP)

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