New protests as Polish court seals divisive abortion ruling – WPRI.com
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – New anti-government protests erupted in Polish cities on Wednesday, shortly after the country’s highest court upheld its highly controversial ruling that will further strengthen the nation’s strict anti-abortion law predominantly Catholic.
The unrest shows growing dissatisfaction among many Poles with the right-wing government. Under it, the country was seen as a key European ally in the administration of former US President Donald Trump, but has been criticized by European officials for eroding democracy. It remains to be seen what kind of relationship he will be able to forge with the new American administration.
Opposition parties have sharply criticized the decision of the Constitutional Court, following which the ruling will enter into force once it is published – later Wednesday or early Thursday – in the official government gazette.
Thousands of people gathered outside the Warsaw courthouse on Wednesday evening, responding to calls for further protests from women’s groups who led weeks of massive protests last year against the original October 22 decision. Demonstrations also took place in many other towns, under a heavy police presence.
In Warsaw, protesters then marched through the city center to the headquarters of the ruling party with signs from the mainstream “Women’s Strike” group and pro-LGBT rainbow flags. As with protests last year, they defied Poland’s pandemic ban on gatherings.
No violence was reported on either side. Some of the marches over the past year have led to clashes with police.
Other protests were scheduled for Thursday.
The ruling right-wing Law and Justice party is widely seen as having undue influence over the justice system following reforms it has enacted affecting the way judges are appointed. The Constitutional Court was the first to have some of its judges appointed in the new way, in 2016.
The main opposition Civic Platform party condemned the court ruling on Wednesday as “a provocation” by law and justice.
“The government is trying to cover up its incompetence (in the face of the pandemic) and is doing it in a cynical way,” tweeted Civic Platform leader Borys Budka.
Another opposition leader, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, tweeted urging the government to “save the economy, don’t set Poland on fire”.
The court ruling bans abortion of fetuses with birth defects, and critics say it restricts the already strict law to a near total ban on abortions. It was made in response to a motion from more than 100 ruling party lawmakers, whose names have not been made public.
Termination of pregnancy will now only be permitted if the health of the woman is threatened or if the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act, such as rape or incest.
Until now, birth defects have been the root cause of most legal abortions in Poland.
A prominent law and justice lawmaker Marek Suski said work will begin on a brand new abortion law that will take into account fatal flaws. It would replace the current law of 1997, based on a compromise with the Catholic Church and widely criticized.