After a series of protests by Polish women in the first week of October, the Polish government has announced that it will not be pushing through a proposed legislation that would have effectively banned abortions in the country.
Members of parliament voted against the bill by 352 votes to 58, with 18 abstentions.
Polish women protested against an amendment to Poland’s current abortion law. The law would have criminalised any woman who had an abortion and would have also increased the maximum jail term for anyone who assists or encourages them to have an abortion.
Poland’s abortion law is already one of the strictest in Europe. In Poland, abortion is only permitted in cases of rape or incest, when the fetus is diagnosed with severe and irreversible disability or an illness that is life threatening, or when the woman’s life or health is in danger. The proposed legislation would have restricted abortion rights in Poland even further, only allowing the procedure in circumstances where medical health professionals believe it is necessary to save a woman’s life. Under this legislation, abortion in any other circumstance would be criminalised and would result in a prison sentence of up to five years and doctors who had assisted with the procedure would also be liable for persecution and a prison sentence.
The Polish parliament rejected this legislation after the streets of Poland (and other cities across the world) were filled with protesters last week.
On Monday October 3rd, up to 100,000 women took the day off work and school and dressed in all black to take part in a pro-choice march that organizers called “Black Monday.”
Jaroslaw Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said the protests by these women “caused us to think and taught us humility.”
Although the rejection of this bill is a “victory” in a sense, it is a strong reminder of the world that we live in today. A world where women are still fighting for the rights to their own bodies. A world where decisions regarding legislation on women’s reproductive rights are made by predominantly white upper-class males.
We are constantly reminded by our male counterparts of all the successes and steps we have made in terms of gender equality, but there are still so many hurdles that stand before us.
Women should not have to protest on the streets in order to win the fundamental rights to their own bodies. A jury should not have the right to decide whether the decision a woman made in regards to her own body was an act of crime.
As a woman, I should be able to make my own decisions when it comes to my body and my reproductive rights.
My body. My choice. It’s as simple as that.