Millions of women across Poland (some news outlets put the number at as many as 6 million country-wide) have gone on strike to protest an absurdly archaic legislative proposal to blanket-ban abortions.
You read that right: if the proposed law is passed, women who seek abortions under any circumstance – even if they’re impregnated through rape or incest – could face jail time of up to five years for illegal activity, as could the doctors who provide them.
Thousands of demonstrators braved wet weather to gather in the main square of Warsaw’s Old Town, wearing black as a sign of mourning for their reproductive rights.
‘Black Monday’ protests were also organised in 60 other cities, including major ones like Poznan, Wroclaw, Szczecin and Gdansk, which has wreaked havoc on productivity.
Restaurants, cafés and other small businesses across the country either closed out of necessity or in solidarity of the strike action – a massive show of defiance against Poland’s conservative government and the Catholic Church, both of which back a new law.
In Czestochowa, home to the country’s most revered Roman Catholic shrine, 60 women employed by City Hall either called in sick or wore black to work.
Abortion is currently legal in Poland but only in certain cases i.e. when the life of the foetus or pregnant woman is under threat, or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
Critics of the proposed changes to the already-restrictive laws fear that – if passed – women who suffer painful miscarriages and stillbirths will be subject to police investigation as if they were common criminals, while doctors might be put off conducting even basic procedures on pregnant women to avoid being accused of facilitating an abortion.
What’s clear is that the majority of Poles don’t support more restrictive abortion laws, with a recent opinion poll showing only 11% of the population is in favour of the change.
We live in hope.
Photo: Getty / Pacific Press.