Pro-choice supporters gathered in the largest protest against Poland’s government in Warsaw on Friday. Up to 100,000 protestors took to the streets of the capital city to demonstrate against the newly imposed restrictions on Poland’s abortion laws, which are amongst the most restrictive in Europe. Mass demonstrations have been staged consecutively across the Eastern European country for ten days, which more protesters joining the cause daily. The ruling right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), which has formed the government since 2015, has been accused of restricting freedoms of citizens.
The Polish public has been expressing outrage since the declaration by Poland’s constitutional tribunal this month disallowing abortions even in incidents of foetuses having serious and irreversible birth defects. These incidents make up at least 96% of abortion cases in Poland, so the move is seen as a near-total ban on abortion. Under the new law, abortion is to only be allowed if the birth defects are fatal for the foetus.
President Andrzej Duda announced on Friday, prior to the protests, a “legislative solution” proposing the allowance for termination of foetuses only for cases where the defects are terminal. The same would be not be allowed where foetuses display signs of conditions such as Down’s Syndrome.
Rights groups as well as the public in Poland have been vocalising dissent against the restrictions and demonstrating in large numbers. On Wednesday, a “women’s strike” by pro-choice activists attracted up to 400,000 participants in 400 towns and cities across Poland.
PiS founder Jarosław Kaczyński, the de facto leader of the country, has also been accused of instigating violence by right-wingers against the protesters. In an address earlier this week, Kaczyński has urged his supporters to defend churches from protestors. This was in reaction to the disruption of prayers and some cases of defacement of churches by protestors. Since then, violent incidents have been reported of nationalists, dressed in black, infiltrating demonstrations and attacking protestors with knives and batons.
Despite the resistance by the government, pro-choice supporters have continued protesting the restrictive laws in unprecedented numbers. The protestors demand progressive abortion laws, and the right to bodily autonomy by those wishing to undergo abortion. The demonstrations largely comprise youth in their twenties, and are filled with anti-PiS slogans and chants such as “I think, I feel, I decide.”