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Women in Poland: “We need your support and we need it now!”

By Lene Christensen, Amnesty International

Women’s rights are once more in danger in Poland, as a new draconian bill further restricting access to abortion can be put to the Parliament’s vote any day. Once more, thousands of women in Poland are mobilising and will take to the streets to tell the authorities: Don’t make decisions about our bodies!

More than ever, they need our support.

Urgent plea from Strajk Kobiet

Since they led the first marches in 2016, the movement Strajk Kobiet (Women's Strike) has worked relentlessly to stop the various initiatives proposing an almost complete ban on abortion in Poland. Natalia Greniewska from Strajk Kobiet has an urgent plea to the world:

 “We need your support and we need it now! We need solidarity and sisterhood. It's been two years since the ruling party in Poland with backing of the Catholic Church has been trying to turn our lives into hell.”

Restrictive abortion law 

The abortion law in Poland is already among the most restrictive in Europe. Abortion is only permitted in cases of rape or incest, when the foetus is diagnosed with a severe or fatal anomaly or when the woman’s life or health is in danger.

When an anti-choice group proposed further restrictions in 2016, in reality as close to a ban as you could get, hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets.

 Enough was enough. Dressed in black, standing in pouring rain, they sent a strong and clear message to the authorities: Our bodies are our own – scrap the bill removing our basic rights to make our own decisions.

 The “Black Protest” was broadcasted all over the world, and the politicians listened. Or at least, so we thought.

The "Stop Abortion" bill

Unfortunately, in November 2017, another bill, called “Stop Abortion” was put on the table. Since then it’s slowly moved through the parliamentary proceedings needed for it to become law.

Polish women have protested every step of the way.

No wonder the women’s groups in Poland use the expression “déjà vu” as part of their slogans. 

Chilling fear

Many activists we’ve spoken to have the same chilling fear: That the people in power essentially could wipe out all their rights. If the authorities can restrict the abortion law, even after all the massive outcry and public protests, they can do anything.

The “Stop Abortion” bill can be voted on in Parliament any time now. If the bill is passed, it will mean that abortion will no longer be available to women in Poland when they receive a diagnosis of fatal or severe foetal anomaly.

This will have a devastating impact on the lives and health of millions of women in Poland. Activists describe it as a catastrophic milestone and practically the end of women’s rights in Poland. For Aleksandra Śniegocka-Goździk from the Grupa Czarny Protest (Black Protest Group), participation in the protest is a must:

“It’s not about liberalisation, one’s view or opinion. It’s about health and life of thousands of women and their families. We just simply can’t allow that restriction to happen.”

Wider crackdown on human rights

The women’s movement in Poland is strong, and their resilience is truly inspiring. They have protested repeatedly for the last two years, and not only on this issue.

The ban on abortion is part of a wider crackdown on human rights in Poland. Protests have become regular across the country, with activists tirelessly challenging the government’s efforts to dismantle the judicial independence and crush human rights, including freedom of assembly, expression but also housing rights.

Women's strike in Warsaw

This Friday, Natalia Greniewska and thousands of other women in Poland are taking to the streets again. This time to the streets of Warsaw, where women from all over Poland will demand that the politicians listen to them. They hope that people all over the world will amplify their protest. Women’s rights activists in cities like Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, London and Paris will join them in solidarity.

 “We will never agree to further restrictions on the abortion law and on access to prenatal tests, we will not allow politicians to fool us with their games. We will not allow them to snatch away our dignity. Please, do join our fight!”

 Let’s show Natalia and everyone out on the streets in Poland that the world stands in solidarity with their struggle.