Saturday, October 01, 2016

The “black protest”

Women in Poland are to stage an all-out strike to protest the country’s plan to effectively ban abortions. Female workers across the predominantly Catholic country will take part in the action on Monday, in an effort to disruptively draw attention to attempts to restrict Poland’s severely limited abortion laws even further. Those taking part hope the strike will bring Polish society and the economy to a standstill. Women have been urged to join the strike to protest the move, by refusing to attend work. Protesters are also encouraged to wear black.

A pressure group Stop Abortion has driven calls for a total ban on abortions in Poland. It is supported by the Catholic Church and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo as well as Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki have indicated support for the group. A total of 87 per cent of Polish people identify as Catholic and the church continues to hold considerable influence over society.

Currently, abortion is only permitted in cases of rape or if the woman or foetus’ life is in danger. However, legislators have proposed restricting the laws further still to eliminate even these exceptions. Women who break the law could face up to five years in prison. A government committee is currently considering the changes.

Official strikes will be taking place in over 60 different Polish cities. In an act of solidarity, a number of businesses and corporations have reportedly pledged to shut their doors as part of the strike.

A leaflet states: “Black protest in defence of the right to life and health of women in Poland. We demand access to reliable sex education, contraception and effective in vitro procedures. We oppose the further tightening of abortion laws. What can you do? Rather than go to work, go [to] a demonstration. If you have to be at work or at home: Dress in black, take a picture and post on social media with the hashtag #BlackProtest #CzarnyProtest to show solidarity. Talk to your mother, sister, cousin, friend, colleague. Tell them about the strike and the situation in Poland.”

According to official figures, around 1,000 legal abortions are performed in Poland every year. However, it is estimated that a considerably higher number also take place illegally, with up to 150,000 women each year performing abortions on themselves often with pills bought online.

In the UK, it is a criminal offence to have an abortion in Northern Ireland, where women face up to life in prison for having an abortion, including in instances of rape, incest or if the foetus is so severely disabled that it will not survive birth.

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