Thousands took to the streets in Warsaw to protest against a Supreme Court decision that tightened strict abortion laws in the predominantly Catholic nation.
It was the fifth day of protests throughout Poland against a ruling by the Constitutional Court that no longer allows women to terminate pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities and only legalizes this practice in cases of rape, incest or threats to a woman’s health.
Women’s rights activists expressed their anger at the ruling and gathered on Sunday in front of the house of Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the right-wing governing party in Poland.
Many called the decision a “war against women” and held signs and banners saying “They have blood on their hands” and “They are building women’s hell” in photos and videos distributed in the social media.
The Polish Women’s Strike (OSK), a group behind the abortion rights demonstrations, led the activists to Trzech Krzyży Square [Square of the Three Crosses] where they were greeted with a strong police presence.
Women and men sounded horns and released fireworks to block rush hour traffic at some major traffic circles in the capital.
Ugly scenes in Warsaw as pro-choice and anti-abortion protesters clashed after an evening of protests https://t.co/osJItYvXZt
– Jakub Krupa (@JakubKrupa) October 26, 2020
Some women took off their shirts to stand topless on cars and held banners calling for the right-wing government to resign.
Stun guns and tear gas were used to disperse the crowd, and more than a dozen people were arrested, RT reported.
“In the Square of the Three Crosses, officers were attacked by throwing various objects at them. We made it clear that we would protect our police officers in such cases. Pepper spray was used in individual cases for this purpose,” the Warsaw police twittered on Sunday evening on Twitter Translate.
The protest culminated in clashes between demonstrators and extreme right-wing groups who gathered around church buildings to protect conservative landmarks from violence.
“The left-wing barbarians are storming St. Aleksandra’s Church in Warsaw,” tweeted conservative president Robert Bąkiewicz from the Independence March Association on Twitter Translate.
The Polish Member of Parliament for Law and Justice (PiS), Anna Maria Siarkowska, also twittered on Twitter Translate: “Aggressive crowd throws fireworks at praying people defending St. Alexander”.
Tak wyglÄda elewacja koÅcioÅa Åw. Aleksandra i plac przed koÅcioÅem. pic.twitter.com/6F6LX0W5WM
– Anna Maria Siarkowska #BabiesLivesMatter (@AnnaSiarkowska) October 26, 2020
Aleksandra Magryta, coordinator of the Grand Coalition for Equality and Freedom of Choice in Poland, called on the EU authorities to intervene in the country to respond to such “retrograde measures” and “violations of the rule of law,” reports the CGTN.
“We urge you to take action against violations of the rule of law in all EU member states, condemn human rights violations, including the human rights of women and access to sexual and reproductive rights, throughout the EU, and ensure that flawed courts cannot be used to undermine respect for human rights and EU values,” she said.
A constitutional court ruled on Thursday that abortion in cases of severe fetal impairment is a violation of the constitutional right to life.
The president of the tribunal, Julia Przyłębska, said that allowing abortions in cases of fetal defects was a way to legalize “eugenic practices” that constitute an unconstitutional form of discrimination and deny “respect and protection of human dignity.
Warszawa. ProtestujÄcy ruszaja spod TK na Plac Trzech KrzyÅ¼y. pic.twitter.com/1kfeEy2qmU
– Renata BrzÄkaÅa (@ReneBrzakala) October 26, 2020
Na Placu Trzech KrzyÅ¼y udzielono pomocy medycznej policjantowi, ktÃ³ry zostaÅ poparzony racÄ. Pomocy medycznej wymagaÅ takze mÄÅ¼czyÅºna metfiony rzuconÄ przez chuligana butelkÄ. Jedna z agresywnych osÃ³b zostaÅa zatrzymana.
– Policja Warszawa (@Policja_KSP) 26 October 2020
The court ruling means that almost all abortions in the country are now illegal, and calls those performed for fetal defects “unconstitutional.
Abortions due to fetal defects were one of the few expectations of Poland’s draconian abortion laws and, according to CGTN, represented 1,074 of 1,100 abortions legally performed in Poland last year.
Poland has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, with women’s rights groups estimating that up to 200,000 abortions are performed illegally or abroad, reports The Guardian.
Thousands of Polish women travel abroad each year to have abortions in neighboring countries.
The court ruling cannot be appealed, but has provoked criticism from abroad. The Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, described it as “a sad day for women’s rights”.
Polish President Andrzej Duda told the Warsaw newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna: “I believed and still believe that every child has the right to life”.
Duda had previously declared to the local media that he considered “eugenic abortion” of disabled unborn children to be tantamount to “murder”.
Further demonstrations are planned throughout the country.
The current COVID-19 restrictions in Poland limit public gatherings to a maximum of 10 people, as Poland is facing a second wave of coronavirus cases.
Plac Trzech KrzyÅ¼y pic.twitter.com/aiTQYXT4Cq
– RadosÅaw PoszwiÅski ðµð± (@bogdan607) October 26, 2020.