Abortion is currently heavily regulated in Poland. The only legally accepted abortions are “severe and irreversible damage to the foetus, a serious threat to the mother’s health, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest” (BBC). It is projected that there are more illegal abortions than legal ones in Poland. While legal terminations average between one and two thousand; conversely, it is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 150,000 illegal abortions annually (BBC).
Having severely limited abortion laws was not enough for some Polish people, however. A citizen’s initiative by an anti-abortion group proposed a bill to ban all abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk. Additionally, abortion would be punishable with a prison term, and doctors performing abortions would be criminalized. The initiative to ban abortion services gathered more than 450,000 signatures.
In response, Polish women sent out a call to action. Marta Lempart proposed Monday, October 3, 2016 as a day for national action – during which women would ignore work and stand in solidarity against the government. A “Black Monday” Facebook group was formed, which presently has upwards of half a million followers. On “D-Day,” 200,000 demonstrators participated in 200 different cities across Poland. Those who were unable to partake wore black clothing and/or black ribbons. Many businesses across Poland closed in solidarity with those on strike (BBC).
Because it received more than 450,000 signatures, the citizen’s initiative was brought to Parliament. Surprisingly, they voted overwhelmingly to reject the near-total ban on abortion, 352 votes to 58. But this good news hasn’t made Polish women content. Another protest is scheduled for October 24, 2016.
Lempart has said that Polish officials will not make decisions about women’s rights without the contribution and participation of women: “I’m not happy about having to protest about such simple things, but I am happy that maybe this government will be overthrown by women. And maybe the next. I want all governments to be scared of women” (The Sydney Morning Herald).