During the 2019 Warsaw Fellowship program, Fellows wrote a brief article on the topic of their choosing in response to one or more of the activities/speakers during the program. Pieces written by these fellows represent their individual opinions.
The early 90s was a very promising period for change in Central and Eastern Europe. The “virus of democratic revolution” spread through the countries in the form of the New Forum in the German Democratic Republic, the Civic Forum in Czechoslovakia and the Alliance of Free Democrats in Hungary. Even though a completely new post-communist civic society developed in Poland after Solidarity came to power, some human rights issues have remained unresolved, even today. A special concern should be raised around the status and protection of reproductive rights of women.
A discriminatory law on abortion introduced in Poland in 1993 outlines only three circumstances under which women are able to access this procedure legally: when continuation of the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life or health, when the fetus is irreparably damaged, or when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act (rape/incest).
In reality, 90% of women have alternative reasons to terminate their pregnancies. In 2016, there was an attempt to further strengthen this legislation by banning all abortions. However, it faced a massive “Black Protest” (Czarny Protest) which flared up in numerous towns and cities and aimed at forcing the government to abandon the restrictive plan on the law.
Strikingly, the legislature keeps pace with religious dogmas.
According to the guest lecturer and Polish Catholic theologian Zuzanna Radzik, the protest was vitally positive in the overall agenda since it “withdrew the subject from the ideological debate and put it into more practical environment.” One may argue about the unique Polish experience. There are 63 countries worldwide that to different degrees are trying to implement a ban on abortion. However, in Poland, apart from the fact that pro-life organisations have an easy access to the governing party, there is an additional leverage of influence: 85.6% of citizens belong to the Roman Catholic Church, which has manipulated issues in the name of the Church (CIA’s World Factbook on Poland, 2017). As a result of the Polish Bishops’ Conference held in March 2018, a draft “Halt Abortion” law canceling prenatal testing was introduced to the Polish Parliament. Strikingly, the legislature keeps pace with religious dogmas. A week later, this bill was approved by the majority of votes (16/9) at the parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
How much time is needed for society and the government to stand on the side of women’s reproductive rights? When will the Church stop being a main state policy influencer and allow secularized divorce?
The struggle, nevertheless, is ongoing. Journalist Karolina Domagalska highlighted that the language we use to discuss abortion is quite important, during her discussion with Humanity in Action fellows. The actual approach is neither a pro-life nor a pro-abortion manifestation. In the view of the main narrative of her famous article for Wysokie Obcasy, the weekend issue of the main Polish liberal daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, “Abortion is OK,” there is a need to understand that pregnancy termination should not be a crime, it should instead be respected as a normal legal right. Society is not merely a fruit to ripen, with women waiting to be able to have an abortion. Someone needs to push for this reality. In her talk, Ms. Domagalska outlined a story about the Abortion Dream Team, a volunteer platform founded by three women that actually became this progressive driving force. Even though the initiative was meant to be an educational tool on pharmacological and other means of abortion, it became a genuine shelter within the government’s persecution and religious draconian propaganda.
“Time is on my side” sings Mick Jagger in one of his well-known Rolling Stones tracks. How much time is needed for society and the government to stand on the side of women’s reproductive rights? When will the Church stop being a main state policy influencer and allow secularized divorce? Why should Polish women be an object of abortion tourism in Slovakia, Czech Republic or Germany?
We always speak of “time” as a mediator. One hundred years ago Polish women celebrated suffrage. How long then should we wait to recognize that any “bodily reproductive decision-making” is an exclusive field of women’s and transgender people’s rights? One should never forget that reproductive rights are not only females’ responsibility. It is the responsibility of the SOCIETAL UMBRELLA. It is a question of physical and mental well-being. It is a concern of human dignity protected by Article 2 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 3 European Convention of Human Rights. It is a matter of sisterhood, solidarity, and collective support driven to destigmatize all the myths and decriminalize abortion as a wrongdoing. Our bodies, our choices!
We always speak of “time” as a mediator. One hundred years ago Polish women celebrated suffrage. How long then should we wait to recognize that any “bodily reproductive decision-making” is an exclusive field of women’s and transgender people’s rights?