Mass protests defeat anti-abortion law in Poland

Mass protests and a “women’s strike” forced Poland’s right-wing government to back down on anti-abortion legislation in October.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) tried to pass legislation which would outlaw abortions even if the foetus was damaged, the pregnancy was a result of rape or the women’s life was endangered. Women and their doctors would also face five years in prison for terminating pregnancy.

On 3 October, 98,000 people took part in 143 protests across the country. Polish socialist Andy Zebrowski reported: “Chants of ‘We will stop the fanatics’, ‘Disgrace! MPs are building a hell for women’ and ‘We want doctors, not missionaries’ rang out. They even chanted, ‘Revolution is a woman’.”

Close to 10,000 people participated in a “women’s strike”. While it wasn’t an official strike, many people took the day off work and joined demonstrations. It forced government offices, universities and schools across 60 cities to close.

This was dubbed “Black Monday” after the movement’s official colour. Women could be seen everywhere dressed in black—on the streets, in trams, buses and trains.

The new Razem (Together) party played a large part in organising the movement. Unions have been cautious about backing it but supported the Black Monday “strike”, encouraging workers to take the day off work. But PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said his party is going to return to the drawing board to create new restrictive anti-abortion legislation.

The movement will need to continue to mobilise and deepen its links with unions and the working class. It has given tens of thousands of people a taste of their own power. It has been an extraordinary display of women and ordinary people challenging the rule of a conservative party in an overwhelmingly Catholic country.

It has also opened up possibilities for new movements in Poland against the entirety of the right-wing PiS agenda that includes pension cuts, attacks on LGBT studies and single women’s welfare rights. Black Monday is an inspiration for those who want to fight sexism and conservative governments across the world.

By Feiyi Zhang

Magazine

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