Polish parliament rejects total abortion ban after nationwide demonstrations

Vote comes after tens of thousands protested across the country

Polish parliament rejects total abortion ban after nationwide demonstrations

Women take part in a nationwide protest against a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion in Warsaw | Photo: PA Images

The Polish parliament has overwhelmingly rejected a proposal which sought to outlaw all cases of abortion.

The vote comes after mass protests were held across major cities in Poland on Monday, objecting to the measure.

The bill was returned to parliament for a full floor vote on Thursday, where it was defeated by a margin of 352-58.

The proposal set out plans for terminations to be outlawed even in cases of rape, with prison terms for women who ended a pregnancy.

The draft bill would have tightened Poland’s abortion regulations, already among the strictest in Europe, by eliminating exceptions for rape and for fatal fetal abnormalities, and by narrowing an exception for saving the life of a mother to cases where a pregnant woman is in "immediate" fatal danger

Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin yesterday told Polish media that the 'Black Monday' protests "gave us food for thought and taught us humility".

The proposed changes were initially brought to parliament as a citizens’ initiative, rather than being introduced by any particular party. The initiative was backed by 450,000 signatures and heavily supported by the Catholic Church.

The draft bill would have tightened Poland’s abortion regulations, already among the strictest in Europe, by eliminating exceptions for rape and for fatal foetal abnormalities, and by narrowing an exception for saving the life of a mother to cases where a pregnant woman is in "immediate" fatal danger.

Linda Kavanagh of the Abortion Rights Campaign in Ireland told Newstalk that the case with Poland shows that women's fight for choice is "never really over".

"These laws are trying to be brought in all the time," she said. "Currently, Poland's laws only allow for abortion in extraordinary circumstances like rape. That only covers half a per cent of the abortions women in Poland are having. It just shows how bringing in restrictive laws count for so few cases."

Niamh Ui Bhriain from The Life Institute said on the turnaround: "While the international media tried to make much of the Black Monday women's protest, the truth is that a far greater number - some 450,000 Poles - signed a petition to have the new law put before Parliament, and a firm majority of Poles support an abortion ban. I have no doubt pro-life activists will be successful in another petition".