Polish women bring abortion restriction protests to churches

WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Women's rights activists in Poland staged protests during Sunday church services in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation against a tightening of the nation's already restrictive abortion law.

In the fourth straight day of protests, activists held up banners during Masses in some churches, according to Polish media and posts on social media.

A young woman in one Warsaw church stood near the altar with a sign that said 'œLet's pray for the right to abortion.'ť

An LGBT rights group, Grupa Stonewall, posted a video showing people protesting in a church in the western Polish city of Poznan, chanting 'œWe've had enough!'ť Churchgoers replied by chanting 'œBarbarians!'ť

Some Poles argued on Twitter that people should not bring politics into churches. Others said that Poland's powerful Catholic Church had involved itself in politics by pushing for a total abortion ban and supporting the country's right-wing government and far-right organizations in some cases.

The actions on Sunday follow a ruling on Thursday by Poland's constitutional court that declared that aborting fetuses with congenital defects is unconstitutional. Poland already had one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws, and the ruling will result in a near-complete ban on abortion.

Women's Strike, the organizer of the protests, argues that forcing women to give birth to fetuses with severe defects will result in unnecessary physical and mental suffering.

The organization vowed more protests in the coming week, including blockades of cities on Monday, a nationwide strike by women on Wednesday and street protests on Friday.

The actions are planned at a time when the Polish government is struggling to contain escalating coronavirus cases and anger over restrictions that are harming the economy.

On Sunday, a banner with the slogan 'œWomen's Hell'ť was hung on a church fence in Otwock, a town near Warsaw.

The activists also created posters of a crucified pregnant woman intended for hanging outside churches, according to media reports, though it was not immediately clear how many were hung.

Thursday's ruling came as Poland's nationalist conservative ruling party has politicized the courts - including the Constitutional Tribunal - and used discriminatory language against LGBT people.

Last week, the president swore in a new education minister who has said that LGBT people are not equal to 'œnormal people,'ť has argued in support of corporal punishment and said women's key purpose in life is to have children.

Health Ministry figures show that 1,110 legal abortions were carried out in Poland in 2019, mostly because of fetal defects. The only other legal cases remaining for abortion are rape or incest or if the pregnancy threatens the woman's life or health.

A crowd gathers outside the house of Poland's ruling conservative party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. Protesters vented anger for a second day across Poland over a court ruling that declared abortions of fetuses with congenital defects unconstitutional. The hundreds of protesters who gathered in many cities defied a COVID-19-related ban on gatherings that was imposed nationwide on Friday. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) The Associated Press
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