Potential U-turn signalled for Polish abortion ban

Conservative minister says protests "taught them humility"

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People take part in a protest against the government's moves that have paralyzed the nations highest legislative court, the Constitutional tribunal, in Warsaw. Image: Czarek Sokolowski / AP/Press Association Images

A proposed total abortion ban in Poland will not be implemented, according to a member of the Polish government.

Jaroslaw Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said the protests by women have “caused us to think and taught us humility.”

The comments appear to indicate that Poland’s conservative leadership will withhold support from the highly unpopular proposal to ban abortions, even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk.

The right-wing government, led by the Law and Justice party, has been under international pressure not to move forward with the plan, with a debate scheduled for Wednesday in the European parliament on the situation of women in Poland.

Poland already outlaws abortions, with exceptions made only for rape, incest, badly damaged foetuses or if the mother’s life is at risk. In practice, though, some doctors refuse to perform even legal abortions, citing moral objections.

Polish women seeking abortion typically travel to Germany or neighbouring countries to have the procedure done.

Senate speaker Stanisław Karczewski also spoke out today against the ban, saying Poland’s upper house of parliament would not initiate work on a bill that would further restrict Poland’s abortion law.

Karczewski said senators would wait to see what the more powerful lower house of parliament would do. However, he voiced support for a ban on abortions of foetuses with Down’s syndrome, something currently allowed.

“They are wonderful children, very much loved by their parents, very loving parents, bringing a lot of warmth and a lot of love into a home. I am a great opponent of killing such children,” Karczewski said.

An anti-abortion initiative gathered 450,000 signatures in support of the total abortion ban. A parliamentary commission is now analysing it. Politicians voted against considering a separate initiative for a more liberal abortion law.

Thousands of Polish women marched on major cities on Monday in protest of the total ban, an action which has been dubbed 'Black Monday'.