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Poland delays abortion block amid nationwide protests

November 4, 2020

The Polish government has not brought into effect a contested ruling that would further restrict abortion in the country. Thousands rallied against the court's verdict which was expected to be enforced on November 2.

Polen Proteste gegen Abtreibungsverbot
Image: Kacper Pempel/REUTERS

Poland's right-wing government has delayed the implementation of the controversial constitutional court ruling that tightened abortion laws and sparked widespread protests in the largely Catholic nation.

A government official on Tuesday said the country needed a period of calm to discuss the court's ruling, which was expected to take effect on Monday.

"There is a discussion going on, and it would be good to take some time for dialogue and for finding a new position in this situation that is difficult and stirs high emotions," said Michal Dworczyk, the top aide of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The prime minister has appealed for talks with the protesters and opposition lawmakers to find a solution to the issue.

The constitutional court's ruling on October 22 banned termination due to fetal congenital defects, further restricting what was already one of Europe's strictest abortion laws.

This would leave abortions legal only in cases of rape, incest, and when the woman's life is in danger.

The court's verdict was to be enforced from November 2, but since the ruling has not been published in the government's official gazette, it does not have legal power.

#CzarnyProtest: Polish women stand up against anti-abortion law

Protests amid coronavirus restrictions

The ruling was met with nationwide protests that carried on for nearly two weeks despite a ban on gatherings of more than five people, intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus infections. 

What started as abortion rights protests soon snowballed into massive demonstrations against the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government, its church allies, and its traditionalist policies.

Recent surveys show a significant drop in support for the ruling conservative party and its leader, deputy prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Warsaw and other cities across Poland in the days following the ruling.

Two protesters stripped naked outside the Presidential Palace covering their bodies in swear words.

The naked protest "relates directly to the fight for women's rights, for human rights, for people to be treated in a dignified way," said Jadwiga, an activist present at the scene.

adi/aw (AP, Reuters)