‘This is war’, say anti-abortion protesters in Poland

People take part in a women's strike against the tightening of the abortion law in Wroclaw, western Poland, 2 November 2020. [Maciej Kulczynski/EPA/EFE]

Poles staged further protests in cities across the country on Monday (2 November) ahead of the expected entry into force of a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal that bans most abortions and that has prompted nearly two weeks of demonstrations and rallies.

The 22 October ruling bans terminations due to foetal defects, ending one of the few legal grounds left for abortion in staunchly Catholic Poland and setting the country further apart from Europe’s mainstream.

Protesters have flooded into the streets almost every day since the ruling, defying coronavirus restrictions that ban gatherings of more than five people, in an outpouring of anger against the verdict, and more broadly against the nationalist government and its allies in the Roman Catholic Church.

Footage from private broadcaster TVN24 showed protesters blocking traffic in several streets in central Warsaw. Traffic was also blocked in the southern city of Katowice and in Poznan in western Poland.

In Poznan, the protesters stood in a line blocking tram tracks and a road, chanting “I will protect my sisters when the state does not protect them” and holding banners that read “This is war” and ‘Poland is a woman”.

In Katowice cars blocked traffic in the city centre, while in the south-western city of Wroclaw protesters marched with banners that read “I think, I feel, I decide”.

The government is expected to publish the ruling later on Monday in its official gazette, meaning it has entered into legal force.

The protests are the latest and largest manifestation of a conflict between liberals and religious conservatives that has also centred around LGBT rights. The protests have seen huge mobilisation among younger Poles.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), urged the protesters on Monday to take part in talks and not to try and settle differences on the street because of the risks of spreading COVID-19.

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