WARSAW — Members of parliament in Poland have overwhelmingly voted against a proposal that would have banned abortion except in the case of the life of the mother.
The 450-member lower house voted to reject the measure 352-58 on Thursday, with 18 members choosing to abstain from voting.
According to reports, Jaroslaw Kaczynski of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party stated that his group “would always support protecting the right to life,” but that those behind the bill were “not going about it (protecting the right to life) in the best way.”
Last Monday, an estimated 100,000 women dressed in black took to the streets to protest any tightening of the nation’s abortion laws, holding signs such as “I wish I could abort my government” and “We want doctors, not missionaries!”
Current law in Poland allows abortion in instances of when the woman is impregnated in the commission of a crime, when the life and health of the mother is at risk, and for fetal handicaps and abnormalities, up to 25 weeks. There are approximately 200 abortions in the country under these exceptions.
The procedure had been banned altogether until 1932, and other exceptions have come and gone, such as in 1997, when “emotional distress” was introduced but struck down by the Polish Constitutional Court.
As previously reported, the move to tighten the restrictions, led by Fundacja Pro (Pro Foundation), was sparked by outrage over a botched abortion at Holy Family Hospital in Warsaw in which a 24-week child, who had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, was allegedly left unattended to die.
“The scream of this child was so traumatic for the personnel that they declared that they will never forget it,” Polish reporter Anna Wiejak told the outlet Church Militant.
The matter sparked outrage among Catholic leaders in the country. Over 90 percent of Polish citizens identify as Roman Catholic.
A citizen’s initiative calling for changes in the law generated over 450,000 signatures, but others expressed anger at the idea, calling it “medieval.”
“This is a barbarian proposal that will move Poland back to medieval times,” Barbara Nowacka of the liberal group Save Women told reporters. “The worst thing is that this barbarity finds approval in the eyes of those in power.”
“Every human being has the inherent right to live from the moment of conception, i.e. the fusion of a female and male gametes. The life and the health of a child since its conception are protected by the law,” the bill read.
“Public administration and local self-government bodies, within the limits of their respective competences, as specified in particular regulations, shall be obliged to provide material assistance and care to families raising children who are seriously handicapped or who suffer from a life-threatening illness, as well as to mothers and their children when there are reasons to suspect that the pregnancy is a result of an unlawful act,” it mandated.
Mariusz Dzierzawski of the Pro-Life Foundation told reporters following Thursday’s vote that he was disappointed with the outcome.
“It is a scandal and a huge disappointment,” he told the AFP. “The PiS came to power with the slogan of moral revival, but there is nothing left at the finish.”