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Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, but a new controversial bill could further tighten existing regulations in the country.
With the backing of the Roman Catholic Church, the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party wants to pass a bill that would only allow for pregnancy terminations if the mother’s life is at risk. This citizen's initiative was introduced in parliament by the Stop Abortion coalition. If it passes, women could face up to five years in prison for having an abortion. It would also increase the maximum jail sentence for doctors involved in the procedure from two to five years. The country’s current law, which passed in 1993, bans abortions except in cases of rape or incest, fetal defects or if the mother’s life is in danger.
Polish activists took to the streets in late September after members of parliament came out in support of the draft legislation. While many are fighting to maintain Poland’s existing law, others are calling to liberalise legislation they say threatens women’s reproductive rights.
The current law has not stopped people from seeking abortions. Despite the lack of official statistics, women’s rights groups estimate that each year up to 150,000 in Poland terminate their pregnancies either illegally in the country or abroad.
On and offline, Poles have been mobilising against the recent bill. They’ve garnered international support from the diaspora, and other countries fighting similar battles have expressed solidarity. Dressed in black, Polish women and other activists plan to take off work and school on Monday to continue demonstrations that have swept across major cities in the country. We’ll get into their demands and what impact this bill could have if it’s passed.
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with: