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Poland's Government Learns "Humility" After Mass Protests, Backs Off Abortion Ban

The law would have made abortions in cases of rape and incest illegal in this conservative Catholic country. Women weren't having it.

Poland's Government Learns "Humility" After Mass Protests, Backs Off Abortion Ban

[Photos: Alexi Witwicki/Kommersant/Getty Images]

The abortion laws in Poland, a Catholic country, are already strict, allowing a termination only if the pregnancy affects the mother’s life or her health. A proposed new law from the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party would have made all terminations, including pregnancies from rape, incest, or those that endangered a mother's life, illegal.

Abortion is generally opposed by the much of the Catholic Polish population. But this proposal went too far and Polish women weren't having any of it, launching massive protests. Today, the Polish government signaled a "U-turn" on the proposal, according to The Guardian. From the article:

Jarosław Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said on Wednesday that the protests by women had "caused us to think and taught us humility".

Protests against the new laws have included creative actions like protesters flying a drone carrying abortion pills over the German-Polish border. On October 1, thousands of Poles dressed in black took part in a demonstration against the ban, and by October 3, up to 6 million people had pledged to strike.

The protesters were worried that not only could women could be sent to jail for having abortions in these cases of dire need and doctors for assisting them, but doctors would be wary of treating some pregnant women at all for fear of investigation.

The draft legislation was submitted to the Polish parliament earlier this year by right-wing advocacy group Ordo Iuris, and under Polish law, a petition is reviewed by the government once it has over 100,000 signatures. In late September, the parliament voted to study the proposal. That triggered the plan for a strike.

The victory shows both the strength of the women's opposition to these strict laws which would govern their bodies, and the power that can be wielded by half of the population, even against a government so conservative that it plans to effectively ban wind power.

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