Poland’s parliament has adopted two laws at first reading that prohibit abortion and public sex education. Both laws were introduced as civic initiatives by ultra-conservative organizations. The Sejm is now advising committees on how to proceed. Women’s rights activists and opposition MPs have announced protests.
Abortion has been legal in Communist Poland since 1956, but since 1993 the country has had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe following a campaign by the Catholic Church: Abortion is officially only allowed if the fetus is damaged if there is a danger to women and after incest or rape. Officially, the authorities register over 1,000 abortions every year. The real number is, according to women’s rights activists, at least 150,000. Tens of thousands of Polish women abort underground or with abortion pills at home or go to Germany or the Czech Republic to have an abortion.
The 36-year-old activist Kaja Godek, together with Catholic circles, wants to completely ban abortion. Parliament rejected a corresponding law for the first time in 2015. The next attempt followed in 2016. According to surveys, not even a tenth of Poles are in favor of a complete ban on abortion. After protests by hundreds of thousands of women across Poland, the law failed again in October 2016.
At the next attempt in January 2018, the majority of the government in parliament referred the draft to the committees for further advice. It stayed that way, as Poland’s de facto prime minister Jarosław Kaczyński did not want any new women’s protests. In the legislative period that began at the end of 2019, the law had to be introduced and discussed again. The law can now suffer the same fate as its predecessor and remain in the committees – or it can be passed. President Andrzej Duda, provided by the governing PiS party, said he would immediately sign a complete ban on abortion.
Another law passed at first reading, is to allow up to two years in prison for propagating child abuse – and up to three years in prison for any public sex education. Anyone who “publicly propagates or praises the undertaking of sexual intercourse by a minor” should be punished as well as anyone who, as a teacher, educator, supervisor or educator, “propagates or praises sexual intercourse or other sexual activities by a minor”. Sexual intercourse is also legal in Poland at the age of 16.
Organizer Mariusz Dzierżawski justified the law with the alleged “sexual seduction and demoralization” and “great insecurity of health” of the Polish youth through sex education, prevention, and education about masturbation, homosexuality, anti-discrimination or tolerance. Sex education is also a playground for gays, lesbians, and pedophiles. Opposition Vice-President Małgorzata Kidawa-Blońska announced Polish protests against the law.