MEPs up in arms as Polish near-total abortion ban takes effect despite mass protests

The ruling, which came into effect at midnight on Wednesday, will mean that the only grounds for accessing an abortion in the country will be in the case of rape, incest, or if there is a threat to the mother’s life.

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

28 Jan 2021

Poland has seen widespread demonstrations since the Constitutional Tribunal announced in late October that legislation allowing women to seek an abortion on the grounds of severe foetal impairment was “incompatible” with the constitution.

The “StrajkKobiet” (Women’s Strike) movement saw hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets across Poland in recent months and fresh protests have erupted after the Court’s official publication of its ruling late on Wednesday.

MEPs were quick to condemn the Court’s move, describing it as a flagrant attack on women’s rights.

Evelyn Regner, chair of Parliament’s Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, said, “How many times do Poland’s women have to take to the streets before the government and the political court finally realise that this is not what women want? It is our body - it must be our choice!”

Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș said that he condemned the abortion ban in Poland, “which endangers the health and life of Polish women.”

He added, “Women's rights are human rights. Tonight, Renew Europe stands in solidarity with the women of Poland.”

“How many times do Poland’s women have to take to the streets before the government and the political court finally realise that this is not what women want? It is our body - it must be our choice!” Evelyn Regner, Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee chair

S&D leader Iratxe García Pérez said on Wednesday evening, “Tonight my thoughts and admiration are with Polish women who are again taking to the streets to protest against the barbaric ruling banning abortion.”

Polish S&D member Robert Biedroń said, “At a time when people are losing their jobs en masse and fearing for the fate of their loved ones, PiS politicians are deciding for women about their life and health. For years, women in Poland have been going through hell when it comes to legal abortion.”

He added, “I would like to live in the time when Polish women have the same rights as other European women.”

Dutch Renew Europe deputy Samira Rafaela described the decision as “a deplorable ruling that violates the human rights of Polish women,” adding, “we did not come this far to allow this within our European borders. We will act accordingly!”

Former Council President and current EPP President Donald Tusk said, referring to the ruling PiS government in Poland, “They are not protecting life. After all, it is under their rule that more and more Poles are dying and fewer are being born.”

The EPP Group also made a statement on the abortion ban, saying, “We stand by Polish women! The EU can't permit their right to fair justice to be eroded by the increasingly autocratic PiS-led government for its own political gain.”

“The woman has the right to choose, and the state helps the woman regardless of this choice. The Church teaches religion, and the citizen has the right not to listen to it. The state is not a weapon of religion” Magdalena Adamowicz, EPP

Belgian Renew Europe member Hilde Vautmans said that women's rights are human rights “and that applies in Poland too.”

“This abortion ban is an outrageous act violating the rights of Polish women. We stand in solidarity with the Polish women and will continue to defend their rights.”

PES Women said, “It’s a shame Polish women need to protest again, to raise their voices again, and demand basic reproductive freedom, access to health services and democratic institutions - because the PiS-led government is exactly doing the opposite - in the middle of a pandemic.”

“We reiterate our full support to the brave women and men in Poland denouncing once more the unlawful judgment banning abortion care.”

French Renew Europe member Irène Tolleret said, “This has to stop! The right to abortion is a right to health for women. The Polish decision is a terrible violation and I think of all Polish women tonight. We are with you in solidarity.”

Polish EPP deputy Magdalena Adamowicz said, “The woman has the right to choose, and the state helps the woman regardless of this choice. The Church teaches religion, and the citizen has the right not to listen to it. The state is not a weapon of religion. It is our weapon in the fight against the virus. It would be like that in a normal country.”

“For years, women in Poland have been going through hell when it comes to legal abortion … I would like to live in the time when Polish women have the same rights as other European women” Robert Biedroń, S&D

German Greens/EFA MEP Terry Reintke addressed Polish people protesting against the near-total ban on abortion, saying, “Many of us cannot be in the streets with you tonight. But know this: In every village, in every city in Europe there are women following your struggle. You are defending the legacy of brave women.”

French Renew Europe MEP Sandro Gozi called the ruling “unacceptable,” adding that the decision moves the country further away from EU values.

Swedish Renew Europe colleague Karin Karlsbro agreed, saying, “Don’t touch the right to abortion! Women’s rights are human rights. We are with you in your fight for basic human rights.”

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