Lawmakers in Poland proposed pro-life legislation last week that would outlaw abortions performed because of a congenital disorder or deformity in the unborn child.
Members of parliament shot down a “Save Women” bill Jan. 10 that would have liberalized abortion access, allowing abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy and opening access to emergency contraception.
Instead, the country’s lawmakers promoted the “Stop Abortion” bill that would ban abortion for pregnancies in which the baby had received a congenital disorder diagnosis or deformity.
The new proposal, if passed, could eliminate the majority of abortions legally performed in Poland. According to Deutsche Welle, around 1,100 legal abortions took place in 2016. Of these abortions, 1,042 took place because the child was deformed.
“We have come to parliament today because we don’t want hospitals turning into abattoirs,” said Kaja Godek of the Life and Family Foundation, who introduced the bill to parliament, according to The Guardian.
Abortion in Poland is legal in Poland only in cases of rape or incest, if the mother’s health is threatened, or if the baby has received a fatal diagnosis or deformity.
The “Stop Abortion” bill began taking shape late in 2017; it was originally met with threats from the European Parliament, which said it would take legal action if legislators promoted the new restrictions.
However, Poland’s bishops' conference dismissed the pressure of EU sanctions, and gave their full support for the abortion restriction bill.
“The Polish bishops’ conference underlines that the right to life is fundamental to every human being, so we should all protect this right for defenseless children,” said Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, a spokesman for the bishops’ conference, according to the Catholic Herald.
“Nobody can take this right away, nor can external or internal pressure change the scientifically proven fact that human life begins at the moment of conception,” he continued.
A crowd of approximately 2,000 met on the steps of the Polish parliament in Warsaw on Saturday to protest the abortion restriction bill. Many of the protestors held signs saying, “My mind, my body, my choice,” and “Women will die without abortions.”
“The women whose rights and freedoms are being violated today have been left to face this problem alone,” stated Anna Karaszewska of the Let’s Save Women 2017 group, according to Deutsche Welle.
The Law and Justice party (PiS), which has been in power since 2015, has introduced multiple pro-life bills over the past few years. The PiS has also effectively cut off public funding for in-vitro fertilization and required a prescription for the morning-after pill.
PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski supported the “Stop Abortion” bill, saying that all babies — deformed or not — have the right to life.
“We will strive to ensure that even in pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, strongly deformed, women end up giving birth so that the child can be baptized, buried, and have a name,” Kaczynski said, according to The Guardian.
The BBC reported in 2016 that it is estimated there may be 10,000 abortions performed illegally in Poland every year.
A 2016 bill to ban all abortions in Poland was defeated.