Polish Women’s Strike reports that 14 people were detained Thursday 29 January, on the second night of protests against Poland’s near total ban on abortion, held despite a prohibition on public gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Poland’s constitutional court ruled in October to ban abortions in cases of foetuses with fatal abnormalities. The implementation of the court ruling was delayed by the October-November wave of protest. The ruling finally became law on Wednesday 28 January, triggering a new wave of protests.
The constitutional court argued that allowing abortion when there are congenital defects is unconstitutional because the Polish Constitution protects human life. The court is made up mostly of appointees of the ruling right-wing party, Law and Justice. The ruling would ban abortion of foetuses with a range of foetal abnormalities.
The only remaining legal justifications for abortion under Polish law are if the woman’s life or health is at risk or if a pregnancy results from rape or incest. To date, about 98% of all legal abortions in the country — of which there were 1,110 in 2019 — have been performed on the grounds of foetal malformations.
The Polish government has been criticised for that the erosion of judicial independence which paved the way to the top court’s ruling. Irene Donadio, from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, has called the arrest and detention of activists unlawful. She accused authorities of trying to “intimidate and terrify” the protesters. Women’s Strike has claimed “political harassment,” accusing police of using “excessive force”
A large majority of people in Poland are opposed to the constitutional court ruling and the right-wing government are seeking to beat back the protest movement before it can grow again.