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Polish court allows stricter abortion law, sparking outcry

  • Anna Maria Jakubek

    Agence France-Presse

Warsaw   /   Fri, October 23, 2020   /   10:00 am
Polish court allows stricter abortion law, sparking outcry People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday. (Agencia Gazeta via Reuters/Jedrzej Nowicki)

Poland's constitutional court on Thursday struck down a provision of the Catholic country's abortion legislation, allowing what is already one of Europe's most restrictive laws to be further tightened and provoking outcry from rights groups.

Chief justice Julia Przylebska said in a ruling that existing legislation which allows for the abortion of malformed fetuses was "incompatible" with the constitutional protection of life. 

The verdict, which is final and cannot be appealed, drew immediate condemnation from the Council of Europe, whose Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called it "a sad day for #WomensRights".

"Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in #Poland amounts to a ban & violates #HumanRights," Mijatovic tweeted.

"Today's ruling... means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford & even greater ordeal for all others."

Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Human Rights Watch also denounced the verdict in a joint statement, saying it "will further harm women and girls."

Several hundred people took to the streets of Warsaw to protest the court's decision, chanting "shame" and carrying signs with slogans such as "my body, my business". Some also held candles.    

Since 1993, Poland has only allowed abortions in instances of rape or incest, a threat to the mother's life or a deformed foetus.

Thursday's court ruling could pave the way for lawmakers from the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party to approve draft legislation that would ban pregnancy terminations in the case of fetuses with congenital birth defects.