WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Suffragettes in Poland used red paint to symbolize blood as they protested Tuesday against a government plan to register every pregnancy in a national database and when parliament opened up the debate on a new proposal prepared for further abortion restrictions.
Activists fear the database will allow Poland’s right-wing authorities to track whether pregnancies result in childbirth and provide a possible tool for law enforcement. The Minister of Health recently denied this, saying there was “no pregnancy register” and the government had only routinely switched from paper to digital files.
Last year Poland restricted its already conservative abortion law and abortions are only allowed in cases of rape or incest if the life or health of the woman is at risk.
In practice, Polish women travel abroad for abortions in other European countries, including the Netherlands and Slovakia, and groups exist to help them.
“This is a full-blown war against women in Poland,” said Marta Lempart, a leader of Women’s Strike, a women’s rights movement that leads the protests that have been taking place outside government buildings in Warsaw and elsewhere in recent days.
Parliament is due to deliberate on Wednesday on a proposal for a complete ban on abortion in Poland, including in cases of rape and danger to a woman’s health. The “Stop Abortion” law would define a fetus as a child under the law, and should it become law, activists who help women travel to abortion facilities and women themselves could face years of incarceration for murder. The sentence could range from five years to life imprisonment.
Irene Donadio, of the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s European Network, said the bill would also bring possible criminal charges and prison terms of up to five years to women with miscarriages. She called it a “nightmare scenario for women in Poland”.
She said that in countries that treat abortion as murder, like El Salvador, women hospitalized with miscarriages are sometimes suspected of having had an abortion, such as with an abortion pill, and can be indicted by prosecutors will.
“If Poland makes such a cruel decision, it would simply destroy the lives of women and families,” said Donadio.
Amnesty International on Tuesday called on Polish lawmakers to reject what is known as a “dire law”, “the latest in a wave of cruel and discriminatory attacks on women’s human rights”.
The proposal is not the work of the legislature; it was brought up by an anti-abortion foundation. In Poland, groups of citizens can introduce legislative proposals to parliament if they collect at least 100,000 signatures.
A separate legislative proposal in parliament this week would create a “family and demography institute” to increase the birth rate in Poland by limiting the number of divorces. The draft law provides that the head of the institute would have public prosecutorial powers in divorce proceedings, with the power to request that divorces not be granted, and the head of the agency would also have access to data on pregnancies.
It is not yet clear whether one of the legislative proposals has a chance of being passed.
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