Parliamentarians call Polish abortion ban ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’

Over two hundred policymakers across Europe have joined forces to urge the European Commission to launch an infringement procedure over the Polish government’s violation of women’s rights, LGBTI rights and the rule of law.

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

24 Nov 2020

In a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Vice-President Věra Jourová, Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, Parliamentarians across the EU are calling for urgent action against Poland.

They say that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s recent de facto ban on abortion was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” putting people’s lives and their health at risk, violating Poland’s international human rights obligations and showcasing the dire situation of democracy and rule of law in the country.

“Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Poland to protest for their rights, to stand up to the government’s recent and current infringements of the rule of law, women’s fundamental rights and the right to bodily autonomy.”

“As EU citizens and European Members of Parliaments, we declare our heartfelt solidarity with Polish citizens resisting this situation. While the Polish government’s attack on the independence of the judiciary in Poland has been going on since 2015, we are convinced that it is more important than ever to finally stand up for our common EU values.”

The parliamentarians emphasise that Polish citizens are EU citizens, adding, “and they rightly insist that EU institutions, in particular the European Commission, must defend their rights.”

“As EU citizens and European Members of Parliaments, we declare our heartfelt solidarity with Polish citizens resisting this situation … We are convinced that it is more important than ever to finally stand up for our common EU values” Parliamentarians’ letter to the European Commission

“We call upon the European Commission to give testament to these common values and to use all available tools at their disposal. As such, we urge the European Commission to launch an infringement procedure on matters of the ‘Constitutional Tribunal’ as well as on ‘LGBTI-free zones’.”

The letter ends, “Furthermore, we urge the Commission to determinedly act on the recently decided rule of law conditionality for the future EU budget. Our hard-fought rights and values, which we are rightly proud of, are at stake.”

Also on Tuesday, Evelyn Regner, chair of Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM), said that the Committee was “deeply concerned by the repeated government attacks on women’s rights and the relentless attempts to roll back the reproductive rights of women in Poland.”

Regner said that the recent decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, aiming to further limit the already restricted grounds on which women can lawfully access abortion in Poland, will lead to an increase in the number of abortions that take place in secret and unsafe conditions, “revealing the dark realities of abortion in Poland today.”

“We strongly condemn the Court’s ruling that puts women’s health and lives at risk and violates its international human rights obligations as stated by the European Court of Human Rights.”

“With pride, we look at your courageous fight for your rights and we want to express, as already on previous occasions, our full support of and solidarity with Polish women” European Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee

Referring to the widespread protests that have taken place across Poland in the wake of the Court’s decision, Regner said, “This is a massive demonstration of the empowerment of Polish women despite the conditions they find themselves in after legal and political changes have undermined the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Poland.”

“With pride, we look at your courageous fight for your rights and we want to express, as already on previous occasions, our full support of and solidarity with Polish women.”

“You, Polish women and fellow protesters, have achieved the suspension of the implementation of the Court ruling. This is a step in the right direction but not the end of the battle. The upcoming discussions will show how seriously women’s reproductive health and rights are taken. You can be assured that we will monitor closely further developments and that we will, with all the means that we have at our disposal, fully support the fight for your health and rights.’’

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