WARSAW – Tens of thousands took to the streets of Warsaw on Friday for yet another protest against last week’s ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal that would effectively bar abortions in Poland.
Women – and quite a few men – marched in Warsaw despite a threat by the public prosecutor to charge protest organizers with “causing an epidemiological threat” as Poland saw its highest one-day totals of new coronavirus cases (21,629) and deaths (202).
The government’s pandemic protocol limits public gatherings to five people and a conviction on the epidemiological threat charge carries a jail term of up to eight years.
Authorities pointed to COVID-19 as the justification for deploying Poland’s militarized national police in support of civilian law enforcement to ensure compliance with the restrictions.
In Warsaw, groups of demonstrators set out from three different spots: The Royal Castle, the prime minister’s office, and the headquarters of the governing right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), and converged near the monumental Palace of Culture and Science, Poland’s tallest building.
Participants held banners with slogans such as “To Jest Wojna” (This is War) and “Jebac PiS” (F--- PiS).
The wave of protests followed a ruling by the PiS-controlled Constitutional Tribunal effectively eliminating fetal abnormality as grounds for lawful termination of a pregnancy.
Fetal defect is the cited reason for the vast majority of the roughly 1,000 legal abortions carried out annually in Poland.
“We have come to support our sisters and mothers,” a young man identifying himself only as Patrik told EFE. “Their right to decide about their bodies is in danger. No court can force them to give birth to a dead fetus, that is simply torture.”
“The PiS and the (Catholic) Church are allied to take rights away from women,” protester Magda said.
Polish President Andrzej Duda made a bid to calm the situation on Thursday by suggesting that legislation restoring the ability of women to abort a malformed fetus can be crafted “in a way compatible with the constitution of the Republic of Poland.”
A leader of the protest movement, Marta Lempart, said that activists plan to block streets in the capital for a second time next Monday.
She likewise vowed a response to the arrest of a 14-year-old girl for allegedly organizing protests in the northeastern city of Olsztyn.
Throughout the last eight days of protests, groups of right-wing extremists have attacked demonstrators with pepper spray.
An opinion poll commissioned by Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza indicated that 59 percent of Poles disagreed with the controversial court ruling.