Most of the people who took to the streets on Monday were dressed in black, as part of the Black Protest movement, a topic which has been trending on social media in recent weeks.
Protests were also held in cities with large Polish minorities, including Berlin, London and Paris.
The protests come after a controversial citizens’ initiative to tighten staunchly Catholic Poland’s already restrictive abortion laws cleared a key parliamentary hurdle. The bill was sent by MPs to the committee stage.
That initiative, by the Stop Abortion group, is backed by some 450,000 signatures.
It calls for a total ban on abortion – even in cases of rape and incest – and would make women who terminate pregnancies liable to jail time.
At the same time, members of parliament rejected a rival bid to liberalise abortion laws.
The pro-choice initiative by the Save Women coalition had been backed by over 215,000 signatures. It called for women to be allowed to terminate pregnancy on demand, up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
Poland’s current law on abortion, passed in 1993, bans terminations unless there was rape or incest, the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother or the foetus is severely deformed.
Last week, fraction leaders decided the European Parliament would hold a debate on Wednesday on the situation of women in Poland.
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło slammed that decision, saying it showed that the European Parliament is losing its credibility, that the EU treaty needs to be changed and the bloc needs to be reformed.
On Monday thousands also took part in a so-called White Protest, to champion prolife causes. These dressed in white and colourful outfits, and supported the bill being considered by the Polish parliament.
The Polish Bishops' Conference asked Catholics to pray for “the conscience and the light of the Holy Spirit [to shine on] all Poles who protect human life from conception to natural death”. (rg)