Today women across Poland are striking, or participating in protests around the country in major towns and cities. The reason for this is the Catholic church sponsored government’s flagrant attack on their basic human rights: a government which, in many other ways, is also revealing itself to be oppressive, intolerant and in some respects nothing short of totalitarian.
The first sign of the reactionary direction that the ruling Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice party) would take with regard to limiting women’s freedoms was the removal of in vitro from the list of state sponsored treatments. This was not done due to financial limitations, but due to immediate pressure from the Catholic hierarchy, denying childless couples in Poland any hope of fulfilling their dreams of starting a family.
However, this move was far less controversial than the decision of PiS to introduce a bill which would criminalise abortion entirely. Poland, along with Ireland, already has some of the most stringent anti-abortion policies in Europe. Currently, such surgery is only possible if a woman’s life is at risk from giving birth, if she has been raped, or if the foetus is seriously malformed. The ban proposed by the government would make abortion even in these extreme cases punishable by up to five years in prison, both for the women involved and for doctors accused of performing surgery.
The consequences of this decision would be devastating. Fundamentally, it would raise the prospect of women going through the pain of labour with the awareness that the child they are giving birth to is already dead in the womb, or will almost certainly die soon after birth. It also means that, in the case in which a woman is raped, she will be forced to carry the child. Abortion will incur a prison sentence harsher than that imposed on the rapist.
But perhaps the worst, most frightening prospect is that of a situation similar to that which currently exists in just a few states around the world such as Ecuador, where women who suffer miscarriages are then accused of having sought out abortion. So, having gone through the trauma and heartache of a stillbirth, women are actually chained to hospital beds awaiting the arrival of police and an eventual prison sentence.
The women of Europe – and indeed anyone else who is outraged by such cruelty and insensitivity on the part of the Catholic fascists who currently control Poland – need to come out in solidarity for Polish women and girls. It is frightening that, even in the twenty-first century, a Church which is misogynistic to its core in terms of its institutions and doctrine, can still influence politicians to such an extent. Support Polish women and the #czarnyprotest.