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Poland: Voices from a protest march in Warsaw over near-total abortion ban

Editor’s notice: The individuals photographed and interviewed by CNN did so on the situation that they’re solely recognized by their first names to protect their anonymity.

Following these protests, the federal government had signaled it was open to dialogue. However on Wednesday it unexpectedly revealed the regulation imposing the court docket’s ruling, which states that abortions could solely be permitted in circumstances of rape, incest or when the girl’s life is at risk and bars the termination of pregnancies with fetal defects.
The Constitutional Courtroom’s ruling marked the primary change to Polish abortion regulation since 1993, however got here after a years-long effort from the nation’s right-wing authorities to curtail entry to abortions. The ruling Regulation and Justice Social gathering (PiS) has positioned anti-abortion rhetoric on the coronary heart of its socially conservative agenda, and tried to pass a bill banning abortions due to fetal defects within the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday’s transfer prompted demonstrators within the capital, Warsaw, and different cities — together with Krakow, Bydgoszcz, Opole, Szczecin, Łódź and Wrocław — to defy a pandemic-related ban on gatherings of greater than 5 individuals and take to the streets once more.

Corporate worker Eliza carries a placard saying "This is war" at Friday's protest.

A rights group generally known as Ladies’s Strike has led the opposition to the brand new regulation, as abortion has emerged as one of the crucial divisive points for the reason that PiS got here to energy in 2015.

Those that marched in central Warsaw on Friday carried placards declaring “Abortion with out borders,” “Abortion is my proper” or “You’ll not burn these witches.” Banners bearing the lightning bolt emblem of the Ladies’s Strike motion fluttered overhead, together with the crimson and white of the Polish flag.

Some spoke to CNN about why that they had turned out regardless of the pandemic restrictions, prolonged Thursday till mid-February, and a heavy police presence.

“It is crucial to be right here, as a result of girls’s rights are being trampled,” stated 17-year-old highschool pupil Zuzia. “I am exhibiting help for the motion.”

Company employee Eliza, 46, who carried a placard saying “That is struggle,” stated: “I feel all girls are right here for freedom for Polish girls. We’re protesting right here. A bunch of girls saying ‘no’ to our authorities and their selections.”

Protester Julia, 23, carries a banner at the protest.
Psychology student Dagmara, 25, believes in respect for all.

“We’re right here as a result of the brand new abortion regulation’s verdict got here into drive and girls grew to become dwell incubators,” stated Julia, 23. “The matter is straightforward to me: I wish to have my rights and selection and I feel everyone thinks equally right here and we’ve got to help each other.”

Psychology pupil Dagmara, 25, carried an indication saying, “It is a proper, not an ideology.”

“It is my obligation as a citizen to be right here and combat for freedom. It is the twenty first century and respect and tolerance for everyone is a should.”

Dagmara, pupil, aged 25

Police had been deployed in important numbers in central Warsaw. Loudspeakers on police automobiles broadcast the message that the gathering was unlawful and known as for these gathered to disperse. Video of the protest confirmed what gave the impression to be tear gasoline getting used.

However the crowds of demonstrators remained defiant as, wrapped in thick coats and scarves and sporting face masks as a precaution in opposition to Covid-19, they walked towards the official residence of PiS chief Jarosław Kaczyński within the metropolis’s northern Żoliborz district.

Women's Strike leader Marta Lempart rallied the protesters as they marched on Friday.
Police blockades prevented the demonstrators reaching the official residence of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński.

The protesters, galvanized by Ladies’s Strike chief Marta Lempart, took detours down again streets to keep away from police blockades. However a big police presence prevented them from getting near the residence and the protest finally broke up after midnight.

Kaczyński, the nation’s deputy prime minister, is broadly seen because the de facto determination maker in Poland and the driving drive behind the brand new abortion regulation. Even earlier than it got here into drive, the staunchly Roman Catholic nation had a number of the strictest abortion guidelines in Europe.

Abortions because of fetal defects comprised roughly 98% of all authorized abortions carried out in Poland in 2019, in keeping with knowledge from the Polish Ministry of Well being.

Additional limiting abortion is seen by the regulation’s critics as the newest assault on social freedoms by a right-wing authorities that brazenly disdains Western liberal values, makes use of homophobic rhetoric and has eroded protections for the LGBTQ community. Delight flags have been a standard sight among the many crowds of protesters.
Students Antek and Aneta are opposed to the government's stance on LGBTQ rights.
Weronika, 22, holds a banner with the Women's Strike symbol.

“This verdict is despicable,” stated 25-year-old pupil Antek. “We’re LGBT individuals and the federal government hates us,” stated fellow pupil Aneta, additionally 25. The pair carried a rainbow flag and the crimson lightning bolt image of the Ladies’s Strike motion as they walked.

Weronika, 22, stated: “I am right here in solidarity with all the ladies and all the lads who stand with girls, with all non-binary individuals and all of the those that have had sufficient.”

Neither the PiS nor President Andrzej Duda, who’s backed by the PiS, have commented publicly on the contemporary spherical of protests. CNN has reached out to the places of work of the President and Prime Minister for remark.

Kaczynski in October described individuals protesting over the abortion ruling as criminals and warned that their actions in the course of a pandemic would price lives.

In the meantime, to these within the protest motion, the Catholic Church and the PiS form a powerful bloc decided to impose an illiberal, ultra-conservative agenda.

Mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski, of the opposition center-right Civic Platform social gathering, joined the protest Friday, saying on a Fb Reside that he “stands in solidarity with the Ladies’s Strike.”

Dariusz Rosati, a Civic Platform MP, stated the governmental ban on meeting is unlawful and accused the police of placing the safety of Kaczyński above that of different establishments such because the parliament and Council of Ministers. “They defend Kaczyński. The visitor chargeable for the destruction of the state, for setting Poland on fireplace, for unleashing hatred. Shame,” he tweeted late Friday.

Warsaw Police tweeted Friday evening that its goal was to safe the protest whereas minimizing inconvenience to different individuals. “We consider the state of affairs solely by the prism of guaranteeing security. Additionally the security of different inhabitants of our metropolis,” the drive stated.

In the meantime, Urszula Sara Zielińska, an MP from the Inexperienced Social gathering, tweeted that every of those that had turned out in protest “regardless of the frost, pandemic and concern of police repression” represented “lots of of hundreds of others who don’t wish to dwell in a sick nation.”

It is unclear whether or not the newest protests will persuade the governing coalition to pursue a special course.

However the dispute over girls’s reproductive rights has as soon as once more laid naked the cultural, ethical and political divisions that run deep by Polish society.

Journalist Kuba Kaminski reported from Warsaw and CNN’s Antonia Mortensen from Milan, whereas Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London.

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