Written by Rose Izydorczyk

In The News

Get up, stand up

Last Friday the Polish parliament voted against a controversial near-total ban on abortion. It was a victory for the women who marched. Rose Izydorczyk was one of them.

Protesters at the march in Lodz, one of many taking place on 2 October.

Pro-choice protesters at the march in Lodz, one of many taking place across Poland on Sunday 2 October.

If there is one thing anyone knows about me, it’s the fact that I’m completely unreachable on Sundays. I usually spend it lazing about and watching Netflix in my PJs. So something truly important must have been happening to make me leave the house.

And what could be more important than fighting alongside other women for basic human rights?

Poland has one of the most restrictive laws regarding abortion in Europe. It allows abortion only if the pregnancy caused health risks or threatened the mother’s life, the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or there were fatal damages to the foetus.

On 23 September, a vote was held in the Polish Parliament during which MPs put forward a citizens’ bill, Stop Abortion, proposed by the conservative institute Ordo Iuris, and rejected a draft submitted by the Save Women committee.

The Save Women draft was written in favour of respecting women’s right to dignity, privacy and the right to choose. It permitted abortion in the aforementioned cases and additionally, it allowed women to undergo the procedure until the 12th week.

The foundations of the Stop Abortion project eliminated the possibility of having an abortion even if the woman’s health was at risk, she was a victim of rape, or she was bearing a foetus with an incurable, severe condition.

The plans included adding a new article to the penal code – prenatal murder. This would burden women with a three-year penalty; doctors would also be liable for prosecution and face three to five years in prison. Moreover, a woman who suffered a miscarriage could later on be put under criminal investigation. In other words, the ‘Stop Abortion’ law would be a punishment for having an abortion.

“The demonstrators prepared posters with slogans such as, ‘My uterus is not a chapel’; ‘I am, I think, I decide’; ‘Poland is a woman’; and ‘The dead don’t give birth’.”

The abortion ban was highly praised by elements of the Catholic church as well as the members of the main Polish political parties, including the right-wing Law and Justice Party and some of the MPs from the Civic Platform Party.

The vote that took place on 23 September was the last straw for us women. In fear of losing our fundamental human and reproductive rights, women responded by calling for nationwide strikes last Sunday and Monday.

In effect, 60 Polish cities took part in a protest against this barbarous law. Pro-choice supporters officially named the strike The Black Protest and encouraged women to wear black clothing and bring wire hangers and placards. They emboldened girls to post pictures with the hashtag #blackprotest in an act of unity.

Women from other countries, such as Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, France and Norway showed their solidarity with the cause, as well. So did many well-known celebrities such as Juliette Binoche, Anja Rubik and Sophia Bush.

On that Sunday, I left my house, dressed in black from head to toe, with my DIY bag (inspired by Rosie the Riveter and Furiosa from Mad Max) and headed to the march. I, along with thousands of Poles, took to Piotrkowska, the main street in Lodz, to display our determination and condemn the people who wanted to take away our freedom.

protesters
The march lasted for about three hours and was led by 30 motorcyclists, with the entire length of the street covered with black. I’ve never seen so many people, of different ages, genders, personalities and nationalities, getting together to back one cause. The demonstrators prepared posters with slogans such as, “My uterus is not a chapel”; “I am, I think, I decide”; “Poland is a woman”; and “The dead don’t give birth”.

On Monday the strike continued on an even bigger scale. In Warsaw, women campaigned in front of Parliament. Not caring about the pouring rain, they stood their ground and demanded justice.

Monday was hailed as a ‘national absence day’. In order to bring the economy to a temporary stagnation, women, including my own mother, took a day off work and headed to demonstrations and panel discussions. The purpose of this was to show how, in a moment of crisis, we can forget our differences and stand firmly behind a specific goal.

And we did it. The Parliament has rejected the controversial ban. MPs voted to reject the bill by 352 votes. The Polish deputy prime minister Jarosław Gowin stated that the Stop Abortion draft will not be implemented. He also said that the Black Protest gave the government food for thought and taught them humility.

I am happy we managed to prevent such a horrible law from being enacted but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a success. It is said that the ruling party is thinking of a compromise and I worry we may have been lulled into a false sense of security. Who knows what lies ahead?

@roseorjuliet

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Written by Rose Izydorczyk

Rose Izydorczyk is a 22-year-old student from Poland. She spends her free time reading crime novels and watching musicals. Her special talent is knowing the script of Mean Girls off by heart. #sofetch