WARSAW, Poland — Lawmakers in Poland have approved a plan to give $1000 to families whose children are born with a disability or life-threatening condition in an effort to curb abortions in such instances.
According to reports, the “For Life” plan passed 267–140 on Friday with 21 lawmakers abstaining from voting. President Andrzej Duda is expected to sign the measure into law.
The legislation, which will take effect next year, provides 4,000 zlotys—the equivalent of $1,000 in U.S. currency—upon the birth of the disabled or potentially terminally ill child to assist the family with expenses.
The move is stated to be an incentive for women to allow their babies to live instead of seeking abortions in instances when the unborn child is found to have a medical condition.
As previously reported, 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 were approximately 1,000 abortions in the country last year 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.
Earlier this year, the group Fundacja Pro (Pro Foundation) moved to ban abortion in nearly all cases, with the exception of the life of the mother. The effort 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.
The legislation was struck down 352-58 following massive protest against the bill.