In a letter to Mateusz Morawiecki, the leaders of the EPP, S&D, Renew Europe, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL said, “We would like to strongly protest against this unprecedented attack on women’s rights and freedoms in Poland waged in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On October 22, Poland’s highest court ruled that legislation allowing women to seek an abortion on the grounds of severe foetal impairment was “incompatible” with the constitution.
The only grounds for accessing an abortion in Poland will now be in the case of rape, incest, or if there is a threat to the mother’s life.
The ruling has triggered mass protests across Poland and beyond. On Friday, an estimated 100,000 people took to the streets of Warsaw.
Protesters held placards with slogans such as “I will not be a living coffin”, “Girls just wanna have fundamental human rights” and “My body, my choice.”
In their letter to Morawiecki the group leaders expressed solidarity with “the thousands of women and men, who – in spite of the pandemic – took to the streets of cities and towns across Poland to protest against barbaric restrictions undermining their fundamental human rights.”
“We would like to express our solidarity with the thousands of women and men, who – in spite of the pandemic – took to the streets of cities and towns across Poland to protest against barbaric restrictions undermining their fundamental human rights”
In a recent op-ed for The Parliament Magazine, Polish Greens deputy Sylwia Spurek said that in 2019, 1,100 pregnancies were legally terminated in Poland, of which 1,074 procedures were performed due to severe and irreversible foetal defects or an incurable illness that threatens the foetus’s life.
The Constitutional Court’s decision prohibits any further performance of such procedures, which is equivalent to a near-complete ban on abortion in Poland.
She added, “I stand in solidarity with Polish women on this dark day. I will persist in saying it out loud: “Abortion is ok”. Because nobody has the right to judge women or blame or stigmatise their decisions.”
The group leaders – Manfred Weber (EPP), Iratxe García Pérez (S&D), Dacian Cioloș (Renew Europe), Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA), Manon Aubry (GUE/NGL) and Martin Schirdewan (GUE/NGL) – said, “Just as other European women, the women in Poland have the right to decide about their life and cannot be forced to give birth, especially when a severely deformed foetus has no chances of survival.”
The leaders point out in their letter that the Constitutional Court’s ruling raises two “grave concerns.”
“First of all, the ruling took place at a time when, due to a second wave of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, any democratic debate is severely impeded. Public health-based restrictions are in place in all EU Member States, including Poland.”
“Just as other European women, the women in Poland have the right to decide about their life and cannot be forced to give birth, especially when a severely deformed foetus has no chances of survival”
“These restrictions make it very difficult for citizens to express and demonstrate their opinions, thus not allowing for a due democratic process, which is crucial with regard to questions pertaining to fundamental rights of individuals.”
The leaders say that secondly, the “unjustified excess restrictions of women’s rights resulting from the said ruling has to be questioned as it fails to acknowledge the need to protect the inherent and inalienable dignity of women.”
“As such, it can be in breach of the Polish Constitution, specifically Articles 30, 40, 47, 68 thereof. Further, it can also constitute a violation of the provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 10 December 1984; the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 19 December 1966, and the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 4 November 1950, as underlined by the Legal Experts Group of the Stefan Batory Foundation.”
In their letter to Morawiecki, the group leaders also mentioned the fact that the European Parliament, as well as the European Commission, have already raised “serious concerns” about the judiciary reforms implemented by the ruling PiS government since it came to power in 2015.
“In fact, we have denounced serious violations of the rule of law in Poland, questioned the independence and legitimacy of the politicised Constitutional Tribunal and, par consequence, the validity of its rulings.”