A wave of mass protests in Poland has smashed a proposed total ban on abortions in a humiliating defeat for the right wing government.
After the biggest nationwide protests and a “women’s strike” against the proposed law, right wing PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski stepped in.
Parliament overwhelmingly voted by 352 to 58 to throw out the proposals last Thursday. That included 186 of the PiS’s 227 MPs who had voted that day. They had all solidly backed the “citizen’s bill” drawn up by right wing Catholic lawyers.
This is a problem for Kaczynski, who has courted Catholic reactionaries for years to build up the PiS’s base.
But Kaczynski didn’t reckon on the opposition to the abortion ban being so huge—nobody did.
The incredible “women’s strike” last Monday saw demonstrations in towns and cities across the country. According to the chief of police there were 143 separate protests with 98,000 people taking part.
It was dubbed the Black Monday protests after movement’s official colour.
This mass movement represents a major change. For more than 20 years abortion rights demonstrations have typically been a couple of hundred people picket parliament against right wingers on the offensive.
But last Monday you could see women dressed in black everywhere—on the streets, on buses, trams and trains. The majority of protesters were young women, including huge numbers of school students.
This is significant as schools have been indoctrinating young people with the message “abortion is murder” for the last two decades. Opinion polls used to show the highest opposition to abortion being among young people.
The government is now squeezed between the movement and the Catholic reactionaries. It has said the total ban is finished—but a leading PiS politician has anonymously revealed some further restrictions are being prepared.
It can't be ruled out that PiS will come back with new proposals when it feels safe—the movement must ensure this does not happen.
The two main right wing liberal opposition parties, who want to stick with the status quo, are already trying to rein in the movement. But the majority of campaigners are now demanding liberalisation of Poland’s already highly restrictive abortion law.
The movement has won an important battle, it represents a major change in people’s ideas and has begun to shape Polish politics. Tens if not hundreds of thousands have tasted a victory won through their own mass protest