Scottish based campaigners rally for Polish womens’ rights
CAMPAIGNERS in Scotland took to the streets of Edinburgh yesterday [Monday 3 October] to protest the changes to reproductive rights in Poland and express solidarity with concurrent demonstrations across Poland.
Women of numerous nationalities and womens’ advocacy groups met at St Giles Catherdral in a show of support in response to proposed plans to ban abortion in all cases in Poland, except when the woman’s life is in danger or in the case of rape.
The day of action, called ‘Black Monday’ in Poland, saw thousands of women in 60 cities across the country strike from work and gather to demand that the law proposed by the governing Law and Justice party (PiS) is dropped and reproductive rights are enhanced.
“We are not going to work; we are not working at home. Instead, we all wear black and we are meeting in solidarity with all the women in Poland.” Monika Oleksiak
Monika Oleksiak, who organised the event in Edinburgh said: “Women in Poland are now in danger of having their basic reproductive rights taken away from them and so we all come together to protest and make October 3 our #BlackMonday, like women of Iceland did 41 years ago in fight for their rights.
“We are not going to work; we are not working at home. Instead, we all wear black and we are meeting in solidarity with all the women in Poland.”
The inspiration for the draconian law came from an anti-abortion citizens’ initiative supported by the Catholic church that obtained 450,000 signatures out of a nation of 38 million.
Last Friday two bills were submitted for the Polish Parliament's approval, the first of which would allow for legal abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, introduce sexual education in schools and allow wider access to contraception and was submitted by progressive social movements and political parties. The bill was rejected in the first reading.
A second bill, including the protested measures, was proposed by Ordo Iuris, the conservative christian think tank and parliamentary block that is being considered for further approval.
“Women in Poland are now in danger of having their basic reproductive rights taken away from them and so we all come together to protest.” Monika Oleskiak
The socially conservative PiS, which forms the government of Poland and has an outright majority in parliament, has many supporters of the proposed law in its ranks. However according to some in the party there is scope for dissention and revolt when the vote approaches.
As it stands the existing law, which was passed in 1993 after a compromise between pro-choice movements and the church, bans abortion except in cases where the woman's life is in danger, the fetus is damaged or the pregnancy is from rape or incest.
The new law would see doctors and women who are suspected of facilitaing an abortion sentenced to up to five years in prsion.
Critics of the law state that the new rules would cast automatic suspicion on women who suffer miscarriages, and that doctors could be deterred from carrying out routine procedures on pregnant women for fear of being accused of facilitating an abortion.
Campigners across other European cities also took to the streets to support the demands of Polish women, around 60 per cent of whom were thought to have gone on strike, with estimates of upwards of six milion women acorss the contient protesting on Black Monday.
Picture courtesy of Kate Cunningham
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