Protesters took to the streets of the Polish capital, Warsaw, late Wednesday and more demonstrations were scheduled for Thursday after the government implemented a court ruling that placed a near-total ban on abortions.
The ruling, which was made October 22 but came into force Wednesday, permits abortions only in cases of rape and incest, and when the mother's life or health is endangered. Doctors performing illegal abortions in Poland face jail.
The implementation had been delayed by Poland’s conservative government after nationwide protests in October. But publishing the law late Wednesday triggered a new round of protests in Warsaw, with the promise of more, wider-spread protests Thursday, carried out in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.
The constitutional court is made up mostly of Law and Justice Party appointees who ruled on a motion brought by lawmakers from the party.
Poland’s top human rights official, Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, published a statement condemning the ruling, saying the publication of the ruling meant the government was risking women’s lives and, in many cases, “condemning them to torture.”
Bodnar said the Constitutional Tribunal and the government proceeded with publishing the ruling without consultations, social debate or parliamentary consideration. He said the government’s decision was not based on social will, but on “political, ideological or religious premises.”
The ombudsman or, commissioner of human rights, is independent from the Polish government.
Predominantly Catholic Poland already had one of Europe's most restrictive laws on abortion. There are fewer than 2,000 legal abortions every year and women's groups estimate that an additional 200,000 women abort either illegally or abroad.