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Poland 'will not back total abortion ban' following mass demo

Published 05/10/2016

A sea of thousands of umbrellas as women and men participate in the demo (AP)
A sea of thousands of umbrellas as women and men participate in the demo (AP)

A Polish government minister has said there will be no total ban on abortion following mass protests against the proposal.

Science and higher education minister Jaroslaw Gowin said the demonstration by thousands of women had "caused us to think and taught us humility".

The comments appear to indicate that Poland's conservative leadership will withhold support from the highly unpopular proposal to ban abortions, even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is at risk.

The country's right-wing government, led by the Law and Justice party, is also under international pressure not to move forward with the idea, with a debate scheduled to take place in the European Parliament on the situation of women in Poland.

Poland already outlaws abortions, with exceptions made only for rape, incest, badly damaged foetuses or if the mother's life is at risk. In practice, though, some doctors, citing moral objections, refuse to perform even legal abortions.

Polish women seeking abortions typically get them in Germany or other neighbouring countries, or order abortion pills online.

A Senate speaker said Poland's upper house of parliament would not initiate work on a Bill that would further restrict Poland's abortion law. Stanislaw Karczewski said senators would wait to see what the more powerful lower house of parliament will do.

Still, he voiced support for a ban on abortions of foetuses with Down's Syndrome, something which is currently permitted.

"They are wonderful children, very much loved by their parents, very loving parents, bringing a lot of warmth and a lot of love into a home. I am a great opponent of killing such children," Mr Karczewski said.

An anti-abortion initiative gathered 450,000 signatures in support of the total abortion ban. A parliamentary commission is now analysing it, while MPs voted against considering a separate initiative for a more liberal abortion law.

The matter has led to mass protests by women, the largest on Monday when tens of thousands of women turned out dressed in black. Many also boycotted work and classes in support of the demonstration.

AP

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