Poland’s ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) will try again to put further restrictions on abortion, chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski told local media on October 12. His comments sparked fresh outrage and calls for mass protests similar to those that took place earlier this month.
Such a swift return to the issue is a surprise. While PiS has batted away the regular mass protests that have met its policies since taking office in November, it appeared shocked by the strength of feeling whipped up by the abortion issue, and to seemed to sense that it may have tried to go too fast in pushing its nationalist conservative programme.
Kaczynski’s words come less than two weeks after PiS was forced into a rare U-turn. In early October, tens of thousands of Poles - mostly women - protested against a proposal to toughen the law on abortion, which is already one of the harshest in Europe. Clearly rattled by the crowds, PiS backed down and terminated work on the proposal, claiming it was not well prepared.
That reverse was widely seen as a setback for the populist PiS. The party's concession to the mainstream provoked criticism from its core support amongst radical Catholics.
It's little surprise then that Kaczynski wants to return to the issue, although the haste of his move, and the strength of its religious motivation, is more intriguing. The party head, who is the effective leader of Poland despite having little official power, said he the number of abortions in Poland should be reduced, especially in cases of foetal deformation or genetic disorders such as Down’s Syndrome, while children too sick to save should still be born and baptised.
There are about a thousand legal abortions each year, primarily because of Down's Syndrome, Kaczynski claimed. “We hope that soon this will not be the case. This is our goal. This must be prepared in the right way, however. The public also need to be convinced, particularly women, and we will do it,” he told PAP.
“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 baptised, buried, and have a name,” he also said. He did not say, however, he would like to force women to do anything but rather use “persuasion”.
Predictably, the comments sparked outrage. The women’s groups and leftist parties that were behind protests earlier this month were quick to call for new demonstrations. October 24 has been put forward as a potential date.
Poland currently has a tough abortion law allowing to terminate pregnancy only if it poses danger to woman’s health or life, or is a result of rape or incest. However, there have been numerous cases in which legal abortions have been made impossible by stuanchly Catholic doctors.