What made hundreds of thousands of women in 60 cities across Poland protest and wear black? It was called Black Monday. The main reason was a new proposal for a blanket ban on abortions. International women’s rights are the theory of women’s empowerment. Their implementation is the practice. The positive consequences observed amount to the results.
In repeated episodes that see women’s rights increasingly repudiated, either through the refusal to implement them or a flat-out rejection of their existence (theory or practice), negative consequences tend to follow. Citizens know this, because the negative consequences impact people. Citizens will protest it, not all, but many – even most.
Poland is an active case study. Some see recent reactions to a proposed bill by the governing Law and Justice party as autocratic. The party is led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has hinted that the government might compromise. That is, a suggested ban on pregnancy terminations due to foetal abnormalities, and termination permission on rape/incest pregnancies.
Within the proposed law, there are three reasons provided for it. “…(1) a severely damaged fetus, (2) danger to the mother’s health, and (3) conception after incest or rape,” Murray said, “…the government has the firm backing of the Catholic Church, which now rejects the compromise it accepted in 1993 when the current restrictive abortion regime was adopted”
This proposed law is not a halfway measure. It would outlaw every single abortion. It would be an absolute law. Women, and other citizens, in Poland have reacted to the proposed law. “Black Monday” is the term for the protest of hundreds of thousands of women against the proposed law in “60 countries”.
What does the Polish constitution state about such matters? Nations contain internal frameworks and structures, which creates the foundation for civil society. Poland’s constitution and legal system create the frameworks and structures. The term “women” has explicit statement in 3 stipulations. Two in Article 33 and one in Article 68(The Constitution of the Republic of Poland, 1997). Article 33.1-2 states:
Men and women shall have equal rights in family, political, social and economic life in the Republic of Poland.
Men and women shall have equal rights, in particular, regarding education, employment and promotion, and shall have the right to equal compensation for work of similar value, to social security, to hold offices, and to receive public honours and decorations.
Public authorities shall ensure special health care to children, pregnant women, handicapped people and persons of advanced age.
Within consideration of the recent controversy surrounding the proposed law, these should have due consideration. This law is outdated and regressive. It is the most restrictive in Europe. The proposed law would be even more so.
It is aimed at women. It treats women as vessels to carry a fetus. Women’s well-being is not of importance to these lawmakers. Whether you feel an unborn foetus is alive or has the potential to be living, the welfare of the mother is still paramount.
Preventing abortion is not giving the unborn a chance in life, it is giving them a disadvantaged start in life. Being born to a woman that either feels incapable or did not chose to have you, is unlikely to be healthy for fetus or mother. Not allowed an abortion, when it risks a woman’s life, clearly could result in both not being able to live.
Women do not chose to have abortions lightly. They each have their own reasons. An unwanted child has fewer prospects compared to other children. She might not have good reasons such as not being able to provide a comfortable and loving environment.
If a woman was raped, a woman may choose to keep the child, but she shouldn’t be forced to keep it or punished for not. The fact is when a desperate woman who for whatever reason feels she cannot bring a child into this world, she will have an abortion legally or illegally.
The official figures already estimate 150x more abortions in Poland take place illegally than legally. This law will force more abortions underground, which means unsafe and possibly fatal conditions.
In spite of the Catholic-backed law proposition, hundreds of thousands of protesters in Poland are empowered enough to be able to organise the strike. The vast majority of Poles remain Catholic. Black Monday shows that the Vatican’s views on abortion clearly do not represent those of the country.
This is a case where a country is regressing back to the Dark Ages and by doing so, actually making the voices of women stronger. It was bad enough that abortion in Poland was the most restrictive in Europe, but to make it entirely illegal has united many women in Poland. And indeed, we know that protests do work!
Now, the world is seeing the result.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.