"Black Monday" is taking place in Poland again today: Women dressed in mourning colors took to the streets of Warsaw and other cities with protest demonstrations, calling on the government to abandon anti-abortion laws and extremely conservative family policies. We have already talked with the protesters and talked about what the ban on abortion in different countries has led to (in short, to nothing good). While Polish women continue to fight for their reproductive rights, we decided to restore the sequence of events - from the moment when the Polish authorities took the first measures to restrict abortion, to the thousands of “black protests” that have recently captured the entire country.
January 1993: Ban on abortion
In 1993, the Polish parliament passed the Law on Family Planning, Fetal Protection and Conditions for Abortion. This document was considered a conditional compromise between the secular authorities and the Catholic Church, which possessed great political power. Termination of pregnancy was allowed in three cases: if it threatened the life or health of a woman, if medical research showed that a child would be born with a serious and irreversible defect or an incurable disease that would endanger his life, and if conception occurred as a result of rape. The law provided for punishment for doctors performing abortion operations, as well as anyone who persuaded a woman to make such a decision or helped organize an abortion. The abortion patients themselves were not subject to criminal prosecution. Interestingly, the absence of punishment for women was one of the requirements of the Catholics.
So Poland became one of the few countries where, after a long period of liberal abortion policy, abortion surgery was again banned. Four years after the landmark Family Planning Law, the situation improved briefly: in 1997, parliament approved an amendment that would allow termination of pregnancy not only for medical reasons, but also in the case of the mother's dire financial situation. After the adoption of the new law, the number of legal abortions rose sharply, but after a year and a half the Constitutional Court canceled the amendment, and abortions again entered the "gray zone".
October 2015: Conservative turn
According to official figures, about a thousand abortions are performed in Poland a year - however, even supporters of the ban admit that in fact there are many more. The legal abortion system is rather clumsy: even if there is a legal basis, it is very difficult to obtain permission from doctors (according to the law, two specialists must give an abortion referral). Doctors are afraid of being prosecuted, so they often delay making a decision - until the gestation period becomes too long for an abortion. There is also an unspoken rule that allows Catholic doctors not to perform surgery on religious grounds, even if there is a medical indication.
In October 2015, the conservative Law and Justice Party, closely associated with the Catholic Church, came to power. In the elections to the Seimas, the party received 235 out of 460 mandates, which allowed it to form a one-party majority government for the first time since the fall of the communist regime.
The first signs of an even more serious threat to the reproductive rights of Polish women appeared in April this year: representatives of the episcopate sent an official appeal to the government in which they proposed to completely ban abortion. The idea was supported by the secular authorities: Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and the leader of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said they were ready to promote the relevant law, despite the possible consequences.At the same time, the first protest action took place on the streets of Warsaw. Polkas marched out carrying wire hangers over their heads, symbols of the barbaric self-abortions used by desperate women in different countries. Even parishioners joined the protests - several videos appeared on the Internet showing women leaving churches when priests begin to talk about the sinfulness of renouncing motherhood.
September 2016: The threat of a complete ban on abortion
On September 23 this year, the deputies of the Polish Sejm adopted in the first reading a bill by the proliferating organization Ordo Iuris, which completely prohibits abortions. The document established prison terms for professional doctors and all people assisting in the procedure, as well as for the mothers themselves. The maximum sentence was five years.
The position of the Polish authorities in relation to abortion became clear even earlier: exactly one day before the approval of the first version of the law on the complete ban on abortions, the Seimas rejected a project to legalize abortion up to 12 weeks, proposed by the opposition organization Save Women.
October 2016: "Black Monday"
The prospect of permanently depriving women of their right to choose has mobilized opposition parties, feminist organizations and ordinary non-political Poles. Popular actress Kristina Janda proposed not just a protest march, but a nationwide women's strike, as the Icelanders did in 1975. The idea was quickly taken up by activists and social media users: representatives of the new left-wing political party Razem (Together) invited protesters to dress in all black as a sign of mourning for the victims of the restrictive law. The #czarnyprotest tag quickly went viral, with not only Polish women joining the action, but also women around the world - dressing in black, even those who could not go to the demonstrations expressed their solidarity with the protesters.
October 3 in Poland was declared "Black Monday": thousands of women took time off or simply did not go to work, instead taking to the streets. Despite the rain, the center of Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Szczecin and Gdansk are filled with crowds of people in black, calling on the state to ensure the right of women to control their own bodies. Journalists immediately called the action "the umbrella revolution" - a seemingly harmless object turned into a symbol of the struggle for women's rights.
The scale of the protests made a strong impression on the authorities. On October 6, at an emergency meeting of parliament, it was decided to abandon further consideration of the draft law on a complete ban on abortion.
October 2016: Continuation of the struggle
Although the Polish women won this battle, it soon became clear that Jaroslaw Kaczynski and other government officials were not ready to abandon their conservative stance. “We strive to ensure that even those pregnancies that are difficult, when the child is doomed to die or has serious pathologies, are carried out to the end in order to baptize, bury and name the child,” the leader of the ruling party said on October 12.
Outraged by the words of Kaczynski, the participants of the “black protest” decided to hold another “Black Monday”. The strike under the slogan "We will not close our umbrellas" is taking place today, October 24th. Since then, the movement for women's right to abortion has developed its own organizational structures and volunteer associations that help coordinate actions in different cities. To the attempt of the Polish trade union "Solidarity" to call the organizers of the action to account, the protesters responded with a flash mob on social networks: users upload their photos with the caption "The organizer is me." Now there are more than ten thousand such confessions.
According to a poll conducted by the newspaper Rzeczpospolita, 69% of Poles support the “black protest” organized by women. The main demands of the protesters, who deliberately do not identify themselves with any political or civic organization (activists, schoolgirls, the elderly, Catholics and representatives of other faiths took part in the "black protest") are to ensure the right of women to control their bodies and get rid of the influence of the Catholic Church on the family. politics, culture and education.