by Terry Bellamak

A little over a week ago, Poland’s governing party reaped the rewards of its shameless stacking of Poland’s highest court with its political adherents. That court, Poland’s constitutional tribunal, ruled that abortions for fatal fetal abnormality were unconstitutional. This decision makes almost all abortions illegal.

Perhaps the ruling party and its fellow authoritarians in the Catholic church, which has exercised undue influence on Polish politics since the fall of the Soviet Union, expected the move would generate inward grumbling but little outward protest in these days of Covid-19. If so, it grossly miscalculated.

Since that day, Poland has experienced non-stop protests by massive crowds, composed mainly of young people. Opinion polls show 59% of the population disagrees with the constitutional court’s decision.

Protesters have stopped traffic, stormed churches, interrupted Catholic masses, and battled police in the streets. Many hold signs calling Poland “Women’s Hell.”

International condemnation has been swift. The Europeans Union, the United Nations and its CEDAW Committee, Amnesty International, and the Center for Reproductive Rights have all denounced the ruling as a violation of the human rights of women and people who can become pregnant.

People in Iceland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Greece, and the UK have offered assistance and solidarity. And that’s just the ones that made the news that I happened to find on a cursory search. People everywhere feel for the people of Poland, especially those who live in countries like Malta, where the laws are even worse.

Even Poland’s first lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, while calling women who continued doomed pregnancies “heroines”, expressed discomfort with the ruling. “[S]he questioned whether every single woman was capable of such heroism and expressed doubts whether women must be forced into such heroism at all.”

She has a point. “Heroism” that arises from compulsion is not noble or heroic – it’s oppression.

The situation in Poland bodes ill for the United States, whose right-wing government has also stacked the nation’s highest court with ideologues capable of denying bodily autonomy to half the population.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa stands in solidarity with the people of Poland as they resist this attack on their human rights.