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Poland: abortion rights under attack in the midst of confinement

The issue of restricting access to abortion is on the parliamentary agenda for 15 April.

Since 1993, abortion has been legal in Poland only in cases of rape (within 12 weeks), danger to the health or life of the pregnant person, or malformation or incurable disease of the foetus.

The draft law that will be discussed on 15 April is to further restrict the existing right by removing the possibility of abortion in the latter case, which anti-choicers call “eugenic abortion”. In fact, there was certainly an element of eugenics in the intentions of those who drafted the 1993 law: while the ban on abortion enabled them to obtain the support of the Catholic Church, whose weight in society was essential to win acceptance for the return of capitalism, the society they were building is not designed to ensure a decent life for all by providing the necessary means for health and education for the disabled. But a pregnant person should be the only one to decide whether to carry their pregnancy to term or not, without society asking them what their reasons are and determining whether or not they are valid.

This is not the first time that proposals to further limit reproductive rights have been discussed in the Polish Parliament. In 2016, there were even plans to limit the right to abortion to the case of danger to the life of the pregnant person, and to introduce prison sentences of up to 5 years for women who resort to clandestine abortion. A considerable movement set the conservatives back, culminating in a one-day “womenʼs strike”. Since then, smaller-scale attacks on womenʼs rights have regularly taken place, for example to restrict access to the morning-after pill.

The PiS government was elected with a reactionary policy that appeals to the more conservative Catholic layer, but also and above all because of social promises such as the introduction of family benefits, 500 zl (€110) per month per child, a significant improvement for many families. But despite their pro-family and so-called child-protective rhetoric, the demands of teachers and social workers are not being met, public nurseries and kindergartens are in shortage, and now the coronavirus crisis is the pretext for passing an “anti-crisis” law that lengthens working hours, reducing the time workers can spend with their families and worsening childcare problems.

On 15 April, another draft law is under discussion, “for the protection of children and young people against sexual depravity and demoralization”. (The next discussion on the agenda is to allow parents to take their children hunting). It is a “citizenʼs bill” for the prohibition of sex education. Behind the petition submitted to the parliament there is a horrifying homophobic campaign that puts sex education, child sexual abuse and LGBTQIA+ people on the same level. This in the context of rising homophobia where a quarter of the Polish territory has been declared an “LGBT ideology free zone” by its elected representatives, and where an archbishop recently declared “the coronavirus is only one of the current threats, not the worst, there are also wars and gender ideology.”

In recent times, Polish women have mobilized with varying degrees of success against every attack on reproductive rights, demanding the legalization of abortion and better access to contraception. But this time, however, confinement seems to give the conservatives free rein. Similarly, the Pride and Queerowy Maj (May Queer, a series of events for LGBT rights in Poland) had to be cancelled.

In this context, Alternatywa Socjalistyczna, International Socialist Alternative in Poland, has decided to launch the ROSA campaign in Poland. The struggles of recent years have shown that we cannot rely on bourgeois politicians to obtain reproductive rights for us, but also that the capitalist economic system cannot guarantee women the right to choose for themselves.

ROSA in Poland is campaigning for the right to free abortion on-demand, for free contraception and free access to it, including for minors, for sex education in all schools covering all orientations, for childcare centres and kindergartens in sufficient numbers, while linking these demands to the struggle for the defence of public services and decent housing and wages.

Our historic task is to replace the anti-worker and anti-women capitalist system established in 1989 with the support of the Catholic Church with a socialist society that offers a decent life and full democratic rights to all.

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