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Bid to ban abortion in Poland sparks heated Strasbourg debate

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 05.10.2016 20:14
Left-wing European Parliament deputies on Wednesday slammed a “medieval” bid to ban abortion in Poland, while conservative MEPs stressed the controversial measure is not a government initiative.
The European Parliament. Source: Wikimedia CommonsThe European Parliament. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The European Parliament debate came after a citizens’ bill to tighten staunchly Catholic Poland’s already restrictive abortion laws last week cleared a key parliamentary hurdle and was sent by MPs to the committee stage.

But in a move that surprised many, a Polish parliamentary committee on Wednesday rejected the bill, which has triggered street protests and fierce criticism on social media.

Malin Björk, a Swedish politician for the Left Party, said in the European Parliament debate in Strasbourg: “This new [proposed] law is a huge blow against women’s rights.”

Gianni Pittella, president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the second largest political group in the European Parliament, said: “The Polish proposal to toughen abortion [laws] goes against the EU's values and threatens the right to health of women.”

But Jadwiga Wiśniewska, who hails from Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party, told fellow MEPs: “You are trying to debate [a measure] in Poland that doesn’t exist yet and you are talking about something on which you don’t have the right to legislate.”

Poland’s Ryszard Czarnecki, of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, accused MEPs of “double standards”, claiming they had been unwilling to debate problems faced by women in Germany.

Referring to the bid to ban abortion in Poland, he said: “This initiative wasn’t a government initiative. If anyone says that, it’s a lie.”

On Monday, women dressed in sombre colours took to the streets of Polish cities in a so-called Black Protest against an initiative by the Stop Abortion group.

A bill backed by the group calls for a total ban on abortion - even in cases of rape and incest - and would make women who terminate pregnancies liable to jail sentences.

At the same time, Polish members of parliament rejected a rival bid to liberalise abortion laws.

Politicians from Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS), which swept to power in elections last year, have stressed that the proposal to ban abortion is not an initiative by the party but by a group of citizens.

Poland already has one of the strictest laws on abortion in Europe, adopted in 1993 and allowing terminations only in the case of rape or incest, when the pregnancy endangers the mother, or the foetus is severely deformed.

After a meeting of the Conference of the Polish Episcopate, Polish Catholic bishops said on Wednesday they do not support measures that would see women facing punishment for having abortions.


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