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Abortion protest in Poland

Abortion protest in Poland, Photo: Cezary Aszkielowicz/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

The ruling against abortions in Poland is a monstrous assault on women which should be resisted as part of the wider fight against the populist right internationally, argues Reece Goscinski

Following the election of the right-wing presidential candidate Andrzej Duda and an increasing presence of the Catholic Church in political policy, Poland’s courts have moved to effectively outlaw abortions in a nation where the laws are already strict. This decision follows from protests in January where Polish judges protested the increasing presence of Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice Party) in the judicial appointments, promotions, and disciplinary process. The eruption of protests in response mark a fight back against increasing authoritarianism in the country. Socialists should recognise the internationalist sentiments of these movements as resisting the increasing authoritarianism of the global right.

Increasing Authoritarianism

On Thursday, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal declared aborting a foetus with serious and irreversible birth defects unconstitutional. PiS leaders declared they wanted to end “eugenic abortions” following criticisms from far-right groups and the Catholic Church for not delivering the policy sooner. This decision will further tighten termination restrictions meaning abortions will only be legal if it seriously damages the mother’s health or is the result of an illegal act (rape or incest). Many of the country’s women’s rights groups estimate up to 200,000 terminations occur illegally or abroad as a result of the existing law which 45 – 50% of Poland’s population favour maintaining.

The move also follows from government intentions to tighten its control of the population and the ideological state apparatus. The new appointed education minister Przemysław Czarnek has launched an attack on the nations education system claiming schools and higher education need to be liberated from the “dictatorship of left-liberal views.” A sentiment echoed by the right internationally to assert their ideological control of ideas.

The court’s decision led to an eruption of protests from women’s rights groups in Poznan, Warsaw, Wroclaw, and Krakow resulting in clashes with police outside of PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s home. The subsequent police confrontations led to an emerging consciousness with protesters declaring the government is at war with women. 

These protests are the latest in a wave of action against the increasingly repressive policies of the nation’s leadership. In early October the Wroclaw police clashed with a group of anarchist squatters using a property for sheltering during a pandemic. This event again resulted in a violent stand off between the squatters and the police who used pepper spray and homophobic slurs in response.

Emerging Internationalism

The politics of PiS are, in many ways, reflective of conservative governments internationally. Recent restrictions on teaching materials and topics in Britain directly echo the same dog whistle politics and attempts to control the ideological state apparatus. As socialists we should emphasise that resistance against authoritarianism can challenge the political right and lead to new forms of consciousness. In the case of Ireland, democratic resistance led to the legalisation of abortion following a referendum. This move was not only a successful outcome for women’s rights, but also challenged the Catholic Church’s assumption that it was central to Irish identity. In modern Poland we can see similar assumptions being made by the Church as it increases its grip on the nation’s politics. By resisting authoritarianism and developing links with international groups, socialists can work together to challenge and overcome the dangerous progress of right-wing populism

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