Polish president speaks out against new abortion ruling, breaking ranks with conservative leadership

Matthew Day
·2-min read
Women have protested across Poland - REUTERS/Jadwiga Figula
Women have protested across Poland - REUTERS/Jadwiga Figula

The Polish president has set himself at odds with the country’s socially conservative government after he criticised attempts to introduce a near-total ban on abortion in the country.

In the past, Andrzej Duda has spoken often about the right to life and protecting Catholic values. However, in a radio interview on Thursday he said that abortion was acceptable if the pregnancy involved defects to the foetus “that would kill the child and expose the woman to great suffering.

“It cannot be that the law requires this kind of heroism from a woman,” he continued, adding that he supported outlawing abortion in situations when the foetuses had non-lethal congenital defects.

The beleaguered Polish government has been rocked by protests since the country’s high court last week ruled that the current abortion law permitting terminations when there is severe damage to the foetus was unconstitutional.

Critics claim that the government is using influence over the court to tighten Poland’s already strict abortion laws without having to get legislation through parliament, something it may have struggled to achieve.

Many Catholics support the ruling - WOJCIECH OLKUSNIK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Many Catholics support the ruling - WOJCIECH OLKUSNIK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Since the ruling was made on October 22, Poland has seen daily nationwide protests that have presented a significant challenge to Law and Justice, Poland’s governing party.

It has long made political capital out of claiming it is defending traditional Polish mores from what it regards as insidious Western values.

On Thursday the Polish prime minister called for the cancellation of pro-choice protests that could hit all of Poland’s major cities and towns on Friday night owing to the mounting Covid-19 crisis.

“I am asking for the protests to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 epidemic,” he said. “They are not only a threat to the lives of our seniors but also younger people, who are dying.”

Polish police have also detained a man working apparently for the ABW, Poland’s internal security agency, after he allegedly drove into a crowd during a pro-choice march, injuring two people.