Poland: Parliament takes a first step towards liberalizing access to abortion

Four draft texts liberalizing access to abortion in Poland, submitted by members of the ruling pro-EU coalition, passed a first obstacle in Parliament on Friday, in a context of deep divisions over the relaxation of laws among the most restrictive in Europe. Motions calling for these texts to be rejected were rejected by the majority of deputies, in this country with a strong Catholic tradition.

“Parliament will deal with all projects relating to the right to abortion”

The alliance of pro-EU parties came to power in October promising to legalize abortion, which is currently only permitted if the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault or incest, or if it poses a threat directly to the life or health of the mother. “We keep our word! Parliament will deal with all projects relating to the right to abortion,” welcomed the Civic Coalition of Prime Minister Donald Tusk on social networks.

Proposed laws aimed at granting women more reproductive rights must now be submitted to a special parliamentary committee, convened immediately. Polish women’s rights groups and activists welcomed the results of the “historic” decisions. “For the first time since 1996, projects liberalizing access to abortion in Poland will be examined at second reading. This is a historic moment,” declared Kamila Ferenc, of the Federation of Women and Family Planning.

The outcome of these highly anticipated votes was also a test for the government alliance, as some ruling coalition MPs were reluctant to support the legislation. “We voted for all the projects. We did it out of respect for democracy and for the sustainability of the coalition,” said Szymon Holownia, speaker of Parliament, after the vote. “The minimum program for the government coalition was not to fall out,” Donald Tusk told journalists, evoking “moderate and cautious satisfaction”.

35% of Poles support the right to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy

But even if Parliament approves the reforms, President Andrzej Duda, a conservative Catholic and ally of the nationalist opposition PiS party, is unlikely to sign them into law. The government alliance, made up of the Civic Coalition and its Third Way (Christian Democratic) partners and the left, does not have the three-fifths majority required to overturn a presidential veto.

In the event of an impasse, the alliance will have to wait until next year’s presidential election, in the hope of seeing Andrzej Duda replaced by a liberal candidate. But “even if this march will be slower, longer, it will continue,” assured Donald Tusk. “I would like this commission to finish its work before the presidential election,” Natalia Broniarczyk of the Abortion Dream Team told reporters after the vote. “I have a very serious question to ask the presidential candidates: what will you do with the bill that will come out of this committee?”

According to a poll by the Ipsos institute, published Thursday, 35% of Poles support the right to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. A restoration of this right in the event of fetal malformation, abolished by the nationalist government, is in this regard desired by 21% of those questioned, while, for 14% of them, the current state of the legislation is satisfactory . Nearly a quarter of Poles would like a national referendum on the issue.

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