Polish Women Stand Together

by Kate Jaworska

Last Monday, October 3rd, roughly 98 000 Polish citizens dressed in black protested against the proposed total ban on abortion according to police.

A few weeks ago a new project entered the parliament. It proposed to restrict even further Poland’s already strict abortion laws. As of now, women can get an abortion if the pregnancy is the effect of a crime, the child is fatally sick or deformed, or if the mother’s life is in danger. The new laws would allow abortion only in “imminent” life threatening situations. If the baby dies, both the mother and doctor can end up in jail. This ban could also criminalize miscarriages if the police have any reason to believe a woman was not taking good enough care of herself.

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On October 7th, the Parliament officially rejected the earlier proposed project suggesting that the protests were a success.

When the government passed the project in the first voting, many Polish women were angered by the proposed legislation. Inspired by the women of Iceland who 41 years ago organized a strike and paralyzed the country, a facebook group was created promoting this type of a strike. It was named Czarny Protest. The creator of the event advised women to skip work, school, and other responsibilities for a day. Women who would not be able to skip work were asked to wear black, to symbolize their mourning.

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Several celebrities posted pictures advertising the strike. The idea quickly spread and on the day of the strike the Facebook group had 118 thousand people “going” and 99 thousand “interested”. This group was the main one, but smaller, city groups quickly began forming to create city-based events. According to the Polish police, on October 3rd, 143 events took place all around Poland. Outside of the country, women, not all of them Polish, also organized protests starting on Saturday the 6th.

On October 3rd many companies were closed because they could not gather a team without women. A major Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza not only made their front page black for a day but also gave all the women in the company a day off. Several universities announced that students skipping class to take part in the protest would face no consequences.

Men decided to join the protest too and they did so in many ways. They took over women’s duties for the day so that they could go and protest. Many men also showed up at the strike alongside their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives. An initiative was also started in which men prepared meals for women striking. They made sandwiches and warm soup for those who spent the whole day striking.

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A common misconception about the strike is that everyone who attended wants abortion to be legal. That is not the case. Several of the attendees believe that abortion is wrong, but they do agree that it’s the woman who should have the choice in extreme situation. If one gets raped, it should be their choice what happens to the baby, not the government’s.

The Czarny Protest did not come around without criticism. An anti-strike took place, in which pro-life believers were supposed to wear white. The Catholic Church official called the strike “a manifestation of the civilization of death.’ At the same time, the government-sponsored media provided lower numbers of attendees than the police did.

Photos by ZEBRAne w kadrze (https://www.facebook.com/ZEBRAne.w.kadrze/)

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