Bad Ass Polish Women Fight Back Against Anti-Choice Legislation
Today, shrouded in black and fighting a driving rain, millions crowded the streets of Poland protesting pieces of legislation that would effectively hinder all access to abortion.
With little media coverage and a long uphill battle ahead of them, Polish reproductive rights advocates fought back against the massive onslaught of conservative legislators who have set out to eliminate access to reproductive rights.
Save for four other countries in Europe, Poland has some of the most restrictive legislation when it comes to abortion. Access to the procedure is only allowed during the first 3 months of pregnancy: possible threat to the life of the mother, rape/incest, or a fatal fetal defect. On September 23rd of this year a bill was introduced (by the governing conservative Labor and Justice party) that that would effectively ban access to abortion, only permitting a termination if the life of the mother is at stake and put providers in jail for up to five years. In 2015, a Women on Waves flew a drone carrying birth control pills into the country; it is estimated that 50,000 termination procedures occur ‘underground’.
Yesterday, 10,000 people took to the streets in Lodz in opposition of this bill which would make abortion illegal, save for the above-referenced conditions. The ‘Black Protest’ participants chanted, “Jestem! Myślę! Decyduję!”which means ‘I am! I think! I decide!’
Groups like Gals4Gals Lodz mobilized to take action.
In April of this year, the Law and Justice Party (PiS) took power, reversing Poland’s constitutional tribunal (which is a huge fucking deal, everybody) and followed by the introduction of the ‘prenatal life protection law’. Just like every other bill in the entire world that addresses “prenatal life” the bill would have effectively turned child-bearing people in Poland into defenseless vessels, unable to protect themselves from possible jail time for even miscarrying. The law sought to protect the life of the unborn child “at any cost.”
With that call to action, reproductive rights organizations, like Gals4Gals Lodz ,mobilized almost overnight. In April, the Lodz based non-profit organized a march that drew between three to thousand protesters. Polish media paid very little attention to these protests with international media agencies calling the protests the “Coat Hanger Rebellion.” Over the past six months the group has worked tirelessly with other reproductive rights agencies to organize yesterday’s march in Lodz which drew over ten thousand people.
This was the single biggest protest in Lodz since 1971.
While the protests have ended today, there is still more work to be done. There is another bill that would radically alter the legislation around in-vitro fertilization, only allowing a woman to fertilize one egg at a time and ban the freezing of embryos. This absolutely ludicrous bill defeats the purpose of IVF and needlessly complicates the life of the women who are trying to conceive.
Rather than foster a conversation with the protesters, Minister Witold Waszczykowski made the following comment to the media.
What is the fuckery? Why do women continue to have to fight, tooth and nail, for reproductive rights?
On Wednesday, October 6th, the European Parliament will hold a debate over the above issues: Gals4Gals Lodz will be there.
Access to abortion and contraception is a basic human right. Legislation to give freedom to Polish women seeking an abortion for any other reason other than rape/incest, fatal fetal abnormality, or possible loss of life to the mother has been pending since 1993. If you aren’t mad about what is going on in Poland, you should be. This article will be the first in a short series about the battle for reproductive justice in Poland. This this issue will continue to play out over the next few days and months. It is important to #standwithpoland and remain vigilant in doing so. It is estimated that millions of people participated in the protests that transpired all over Poland earlier today.
*edit* Putting together a 10,000 person march is not easy work. The protest held in Lodz was co-organized by the Committee for the Defense of Democracy Lodz (KOD), a huge network of organized security forces, MOTOKOD which lead the start of the march, the support of everyone who traveled from all around Poland to attend. The behind the scenes team of graphic artists and carpenters all contributed to the success of these protests. Gals 4 Gals Warsaw will be going to Strasbourg (you know, the seat of the European Parliament).
*10/5/16 edit* There is not enough gratitude in the world for those involved with these protests. Thank you to the outstanding people who have helped edit this article and provided feedback. A thousand thanks to Lodzkie Dziewuchy Dsziewuchom . ❤
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