Polish Lawmakers Vote to Relax Near-Total Abortion Ban, Setting Stage for Potential Clash with President

Warsaw, Poland – Lawmakers in Poland have voted to ease the country’s near-total ban on abortion, setting the stage for a potential clash over women’s rights with the country’s conservative president. On Friday, parliamentarians endorsed several proposals to relax the abortion restrictions, including decriminalizing abortions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy. However, these measures are likely to face opposition from President Andrzej Duda, who is aligned with the conservative Law and Justice Party.

Poland currently has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, introduced in 2020 by a court backed by the Law and Justice Party. The law only allows for abortions in very limited circumstances, even in cases of severe fetal abnormalities or rape. Punishments for having an abortion or assisting someone in obtaining one can include up to three years in prison. This has led to tragic consequences, with expectant mothers dying from complications after being denied abortions by doctors fearing prosecution.

Amidst growing calls for change, two of the proposed bills supported by lawmakers aim to decriminalize abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy, while another seeks to decriminalize abortion altogether. These proposals, along with public opinion polls indicating support for more lenient abortion laws and the recent election victory of moderate Prime Minister Donald Tusk, suggest a shifting attitude within Polish society.

Szymon Holownia, the president of the parliament, has suggested a national referendum on the abortion issue. A referendum result supporting the relaxation of restrictions would further challenge President Duda, who has vetoed attempts to amend the existing laws.

A November 2022 survey in Poland found that 70% of respondents supported legal abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy, underscoring the widespread public support for a change in the current laws. The proposed measures voted on Friday were not legislation but serve as a basis for future bills. The issue of abortion in Poland is an ongoing battle and a reflection of the larger societal shift towards more liberal values in a traditionally conservative-leaning nation.

In conclusion, the vote to ease Poland’s near-total ban on abortion has raised hopes for greater reproductive rights in the country. However, it remains to be seen how President Duda will respond to these proposals, given his conservative stance. As the issue continues to be debated, the voices of both advocates for reproductive freedoms and those opposing any loosening of restrictions will play a crucial role in shaping the future of abortion laws in Poland.