Three months after the Constitutional Tribunal’s October decision to expansively ban abortions, the Polish government brought the ruling—over 200 pages long—into legal force last Wednesday. The newly implemented policy permits abortions only in cases involving rape, incest or dangerous circumstances for the mother, excluding the majority of pregnancy terminations that occur because of fetal defects. This abrupt decision immediately spurred outraged demonstrations, some of the largest Poland has seen since the collapse of Soviet rule. Thousands of furious citizens took to the streets, protesting the ruling with chants like “I think, I feel, I decide!” and “Freedom of choice instead of terror!” According to the New York Times, protesters in Warsaw marched to songs like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” or Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”
Demonstrations continued throughout the rest of the week, with protesters sporting green handkerchiefs—symbolic of the recent Argentine abortion rights activism—and signs reading “My body, my choice,” “The revolution has a uterus” and “You have blood on your hands,” according to The Guardian. Among the crowds were climate change activists and members of the LGBTQ communities, also in fear of losing their civil liberties. The protests, spread across the entire country in cities such as Lodz, Gdansk and Szczecin, have been largely peaceful, although in some instances tear gas and detainments have been used by authorities to subdue protesters.
Many protesters believe that the ruling will do nothing to prevent abortions. “For every woman who will experience pain because of this ruling, or will be forced to give birth to a child with Down syndrome,” said 23-year-old student Cezary Jasinski, “the [court judges] will be to blame.” Opposition Polish lawmaker Donald Tusk stated that “for [the Polish government] it is not about protecting life. Under their rule more and more Poles are dying and less are being born.” 60-year-old Beata Jedynak, however, who supports the government, told NBC News that the protests have left her feeling “devastated and disgusted.” She said, “I just don’t know what this fight is about, whether to overthrow the government or to introduce entirely leftist views.”
In the three months since the initial decision to move forward with the ban, many hospitals already began halting abortion procedures in fear of legal consequences. Now doctors in Poland can be arrested for performing illegal abortions. This, says Amnesty International’s senior research advisor, Esther Major, “rolls back on pregnant people’s sexual and reproductive rights and puts their health at risk. We stand in solidarity with women and girls in Poland and share in their outrage at this cruel decision.”