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Warsaw braces for mass abortion rights protest

30 October 2020   |   10:35 am
The Polish capital prepared for a mass demonstration on Friday against a court ruling that would ban almost all abortions.

Demonstrators protest with banners and placards against tightening Poland’s already restrictive abortion law in Warsaw on October 28, 2020. Women in Poland walked off the job and hit the streets nationwide on October 28, 2020, the seventh straight day of mass protests over a court ruling to impose a near-total abortion ban in Poland. JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP

The Polish capital prepared for a mass demonstration on Friday against a court ruling that would ban almost all abortions.

Crowds of protesters are expected to defy coronavirus restrictions and risk contagion to join the demonstration in Warsaw.

“We’re prepared to fight till the end,” Marta Lempart, co-founder of the Women’s Strike movement, told reporters on Friday.

Security is expected to be tight following some clashes between protesters and far-right activists in nine consecutive days of protests.

The protest is set to start at 1600 GMT.

More than 400,000 people took part in mostly peaceful nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday and organisers are hoping many people will travel to Warsaw for Friday’s protest.

Women’s rights groups organising the protest face possible prosecution since any gatherings of more than five people are currently banned.

Mass protests began last week when Poland’s Constitutional Court ruled that an existing law allowing the abortion of damaged foetuses was “incompatible” with the constitution.

Protesters have focused their anger on the governing ultra-Catholic Law and Justice (PiS) party, whose lawmakers asked the court to rule.

The government has defended the verdict, saying it will halt “eugenic abortions”, but human rights groups have said it would force women to carry non-viable pregnancies.

Government leaders have slammed protests as a form of “barbarism” and “vandalism” after some demonstrations against Catholic churches.

Far-right groups have called on Warsaw residents to “defend” churches in Friday’s protest, although organisers have said they do not plan to target religious institutions again.

Poland, a traditionally devout Catholic country, already has some of the most stringent abortion laws in Europe.

There are fewer than 2,000 legal abortions every year, although women’s groups estimate some 200,000 women abort either illegally or abroad.

Once published in the official journal, the constitutional court ruling would ban all abortions except in cases of rape and incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.

Protests are due to continue next week.

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