TIT LAW AND JUSTICE (PIS) who has ruled Poland since 2015 has firm ideas about how he wants people to live. He defends the traditional family and portrays homosexuals as a threat. Today, the country’s restrictions on abortion, already among the strictest in Europe, are on the verge of tightening. In a decision of October 22, the PISThe Controlled Constitutional Court said women could no longer invoke serious fetal abnormalities as a reason for having an abortion.
Abortion is already banned in Poland. Until now, there were three exceptions: when the mother’s life is in danger, in cases of rape or incest, and in cases of severe and irreversible fetal malformations. Almost all of the approximately 1,000 abortions legally performed each year in Poland fall into the third category. In other cases, many women go abroad, often to neighboring Germany, where layoffs are much easier to obtain.
Social conservatives and the Catholic Church have long called for Poland’s current rules, in place since 1993, to be made stricter. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, PISThe veteran leader of the party, said in 2016 that the party “will strive to ensure that even very difficult pregnancies, when the child is sentenced to death, are severely deformed, end in birth, so that the ‘child can be baptized, buried, given a name. ”However, a bill that year strengthening the ban was shelved after triggering large, unexpected protests.
The new decision follows a request made last year by lawmakers (mainly to PIS) for the Constitutional Court – of which PIS indeed, took control shortly after coming to power in 2015, triggering a long dispute with the European Commission over the rule of law – to rule on the compatibility of abortion in case of fetal malformations with the Polish constitution. It will come into force upon publication. Hospitals don’t know how to do it; one in Warsaw has previously advised doctors to stop terminating pregnancies when there is a high probability of severe fetal malformations.
The verdict sparked protests by women across Poland, which continued this week. Polls suggest little support for the change: in a 2018, 70% of respondents were against banning abortion for fetal malformations (even among PIS voters, the figure was 40%). The decision drew criticism not only for its substance but also for the way it was made. Adam Bodnar, the country’s commissioner for human rights, suggests that the rules on abortion should be set by parliament, possibly with the participation of a citizens’ assembly modeled on that of Ireland that recommended legalizing abortion. procedure.
For Mr. Kaczynski, the time for the verdict is right. It offers a distraction from the growing number of coronavirus cases in Poland (over 18,000 new cases were announced on October 28) and the recent crisis in the PIS– led government coalition. Yet some politicians in the ruling camp are already calling for restrictions on the ruling to be relaxed. Like Jaroslaw Gowin, another Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the more moderate of PISThe two junior coalition partners say: “The law must respect values. But the law cannot force women to be heroic. ■
This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Who’s the Strictest of All?”