Around 500 women gathered in Birmingham’s Victoria Square to protest against the abortion legislation in Poland.
The pro-choice protest came in response to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling banning abortions where the foetus is malformed, which accounted for 98% of legal terminations last year.
The protest, held last Sunday, was mainly attended by young Polish. It mirrored similar demonstrations in the country’s capital, Warsaw – where over 100,000 people gathered to fight against the new regulation.
Karolina Monika Schab, a Polish protester living in Birmingham, told Birmingham Eastside:
“The government thinks that they can impose their religious beliefs on everyone and that they can ignore women’s reproductive rights.”
She added: “Abortion is healthcare and this far-right, misogynist, homophobic government has no right to take that away from us.”
Meanwhile the regional branch of Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, demonstrated its solidarity with protestors on its social media feeds.
Beata Zaborniak, one of the protest organiser’s revealed what prompted her to get involved: “It was frustration and anger and contempt to the Polish government. I wanted to show my support despite not living in Poland.”
“We wanted to show that we still care about what’s happening in Poland. I know that other pro-choice strikes have happened in Germany, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Estonia, Portugal,” she added.
Dr Atina Krajewska, Senior Birmingham Fellow and expert in sexual reproductive rights, believes the judgement contributes directly to a violation of human rights.
“You have to always balance different rights. The constitutional court, however, have payed almost no attention to the rights and interests of women,” she commented.
Krajewska reckoned that banning abortion will not stop women, but rather make the process unsafe.
“It will have a particularly damaging impact on women from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds. The women who can afford it, are going to travel abroad to access lawful abortion services, while the women who do not have the money are going to suffer.”
There has been no official government statement regarding the backlash. Although the head of the prime minister’s office, Michał Dworczyk, told Polish broadcaster TVN24 on Tuesday, that “there is a discussion now” but they still need “time for dialogue” as the issue is a “difficult and emotional situation”.
Atina Krajewska commented on these developments saying:
“The government is probably waiting for the protests to disperse and for the society to accept the restrictions. There is a lot of uncertainty”.
Poland has some of the strictest abortion rules in Europe. Once the decision comes into effect, terminations will only be allowed in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother’s health is at risk.