March 4. 2024. 6:36

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Polish parliament rejects controversial abortion bill before elections


Parliament rejected a controversial bill that aims to further restrict one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe on Tuesday, with some conservative members of the ruling PiS saying off the record that they did not want the bill to cause a new wave of street protests ahead of the upcoming elections.

The controversial “Abortion is murder” bill was submitted to parliament by popular anti-abortion activist Kaja Godek and her “Life and Family” foundation, aiming to sanction those publicly promoting abortion in Poland and abroad, as well as those advising and distributing materials on the topic of abortion.

However, in its first reading, 300 out of 460 lawmakers rejected the bill with just 99 MPs opposing it and 27 MPs abstaining.

“We will not approve that draft,” Rafał Bochenek, PiS spokesman, told Interia just before Tuesday’s vote in the lower house known as the Sejm.

“This is not the moment to deal with issues that generate unnecessary emotions and social divisions. There is a war abroad, a myriad of challenges in international policy and economic policy at home, and that is what we are focusing on now,” he explained.

Still, contrary to Bochenek’s announcement, almost half of PiS MPs opposed the motion to reject the bill.

On the side of the opposition, the centrist Civic Coalition (PO, EPP), the Left (S&D) and the centre-right Poland 2050 voted in favour of the rejection, while most far-right Confederation party MPs wanted to see the bill proceed to further readings.

Bochenek was even among the PiS MPs who backed the bill, even if he earlier said his party would file a motion to defeat it. Also backing the bill on the side of PiS were Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and former Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, according to OKO.press investigative journalism outlet.

Godek, for her part, defended the bill, citing her own foundation’s report that is based on data from the prosecutor’s office as evidence to legislate further

“The prosecution of abortion in Poland is a sham”, she said, adding that “there is a well-developed system of encouraging abortions with detailed instructions on how to do it.”

On the side of PiS, members have said – off the record – that they do not want to see a repeat of the protests that shook Polish society in October 2020 after the Constitutional Tribunal found abortion due to foetal impairment to be unconstitutional. According to some media, protestors gathered in numbers not seen since the fall of communism in 1989.

Abortion in Poland is now legal only in cases when the woman’s life or health is endangered by the continuation of pregnancy or when pregnancy results from a criminal act.

Poland’s abortion laws must change according to 62% of Poles, among whom 75% want the issue to be solved through a referendum, a recent poll conducted by the Pollster Institute for Poland 2050 party and its leader Szymon Hołownia, the results of which were published by Rzeczpospolita.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | EURACTIV.pl)