Polish activists seek support for new, liberal abortion law

Polish women’s rights activists and left-wing lawmakers have presented a plan to collect signatures in support of proposed reforms to legalize abortion in the predominantly Catholic country

WARSAW, Poland — Polish women’s rights organizations and left-wing lawmakers presented a plan on Wednesday to collect signatures in support of proposed reforms to legalize abortion in the predominantly Catholic country.

The initiative comes in reaction to the recent imposition of a near-total ban on abortion in Poland. The constitutional court ruled in October to restrict abortion, triggering the largest mass protest movement in Poland’s post-communist era, and the new law took effect last week.

The proposals, presented at a news conference outside parliament on Wednesday, must receive 100,000 signatures by citizens to be introduced to the assembly for debate.

The activists acknowledged it will be impossible to secure approval for it in parliament given that the ruling conservative party, Law and Justice, holds a majority. The country’s centrist political groups also did not give their backing to the effort, with the largest opposition party, Civic Platform, still debating what its stance on abortion should be.

Instead, their aim now is to trigger a larger social debate that they hope will allow them to spread their belief that abortion should be safe and legal because abortions happen whether they are banned or not under the law.

Marta Lempart, a leader with Women’s Strike, the group behind the street protests, said the step is part of a longer-term struggle that she believes will prevail given that reproductive choice is the standard in Europe.

“That is why we do not lose hope, despite this terrible moment in which we find ourselves,” she said.

Lempart noted that women in Argentina fought for 15 years and had nine failed attempts before abortion was recently legalized there.

“As in our Argentinian sisters’ case, we go huge steps forward but we have to also go huge steps backward, and that’s what happened in Poland.”

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