Hundreds of thousands across Poland are protesting a near-total ban on abortion as the country’s homophobic ruling party surges ever further to the far right.
As of Wednesday (27 January), abortion in Poland will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in serious danger.
When the controversial ruling was announced in October it prompted the biggest protests the country had seen since the fall of communism; now as the order is enforced more than 400,000 people gathered for further protests in Warsaw and other major cities.
“We are inviting everyone, please, go out, be motivated, so we can walk together, make a mark,” said protest group leader Marta Lempart.
On Wednesday evening in Warsaw, crowds of activists marched to the headquarters of the governing Law and Justice Party singing “I Will Survive”. Demonstrations elsewhere were led by chants of: “I think, I feel, I decide!” and “Freedom of choice instead of terror!”
Further protests are expected throughout the week as part of a “women’s strike” that is spreading in hundreds of towns and cities across the country.
Poland already has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, and most of the small number of legal abortions that take place in the country are cases of foetal defects.
The majority of Poles oppose a stricter ban, according to the BBC. But Poland’s conservative government, which has strong ties to the Catholic Church, supports the ruling and refused to hear the many voices of dissent.
Poland’s LGBT+ community have been attacked under the same ultra-conservative agenda, and many have stood at the forefront of the fight alongside women’s activists.
Several protestors marched with Pride flags and pro-LGBT+ placards in recognition of this shared alliance.
“I want us to have our basic rights, the right to decide about our bodies, the right to decide what we want to do and if we want to bear children and in what circumstances to have children,” one protester, Gabriela Stepniak, told Reuters.
The unrest shows growing discontent among many Poles with the right-wing government, which has been criticised by European officials and politicians for eroding democracy.
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