Polish women protest unethical abortion ban
Editor’s note: This new weekly series highlights stories of women mentioned in the media.
On Monday, about 30,000 men and women flooded the streets of Warsaw, Poland filling Castle Square in protest against a proposed blanket abortion ban. They joined tens of thousands of people in ninety cities across Poland, dressed in black and holding signs, a high point of the protesting that had started two weeks before.
The bill in question, written by an organization called Stop Abortion, would have criminalized all abortions in Poland. Monday’s protests, however, caught the government off guard, and by Wednesday the politicians that had supported the ban, backed down.
The success of the protests are a major victory for pro-choice advocates in Poland. Even without the proposed ban, Poland has some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in Europe. Abortion is only permitted in the cases of severe fetal defects, a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or a serious threat to the mother’s life.
Of course, Poland is not the only country debating the legality of abortion. Abortion is a hot-button topic across the world, and an extremely controversial topic in American politics. Pro-life advocates seek to create anti-abortion legislation in order to reduce abortions, usually on ethical grounds.
Abortion bans, and even restrictive abortion policies like those in Poland, are often proposed with the aim to “save babies.” In fact, according to The Guardian, a member of the Polish parliament had, before the protests, denounced opponents of the ban as “fans of killing babies” who should be ashamed of themselves.
But abortion legislation should not be a question about the safety of the baby as much as it should be a question about the safety of the mother. Banning abortions does not actually reduce abortions. Women who seek abortions do not seek abortions because they are convenient; they seek them out of necessity and desperation. Banning abortion will not prevent women from getting abortions — it will prevent women from getting safe, legal abortions. It will force women in desperate situations to look for potentially harmful, illegal termination options.
Abortion bans also prevent a woman’s access to important prenatal medical procedures. Under Poland’s proposed ban, doctors would not have been allowed to administer amniotic fluid testing, or any other invasive procedures, because invasive prenatal procedures carry a minor risk of miscarriage. With the incredible advances in prenatal care, these procedures have been able to correct a variety of problems and provide a wealth of information about the child before birth. To limit the access that new parents and doctors have to these options is unnecessarily dangerous to both the mother and the child.
Furthermore, the decision to carry or terminate a pregnancy should not be left up to anyone besides the woman whose body is in question. There are inherent risks in abortion, as there are with any medical procedure, but there are also inherent risks in childbirth. No one should be able to tell a woman which risks she must take with her health or with her body.
Pro-choice advocates are not looking to encourage the death of infants. The 116,000 Polish protesters that stormed the cities were not protesting for their right to kill babies. Instead, they were looking to ensure that women have rights over their own bodies, access to safe medical prenatal care, and the option to safely and legally terminate a pregnancy if that is what is necessary.
When women have the right to choose, they have autonomy over their own lives and bodies. This autonomy is something worth fighting for, and something that should never be called into question.