Police warn of tougher action as thousands join abortion protests in Poland

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Thousands took to the streets across Poland on Wednesday night for the seventh day of protests against a court ruling that further limits the country’s highly restrictive abortion laws.

Police warned demonstrators not to target churches again after some services were disrupted and buildings defaced in an earlier protest.

Poland has been rocked by huge demonstrations, most of them peaceful, since its top court ruled last Thursday that abortion due to foetal abnormalities was not permissible under the constitution.

Pro-life counter protesters in front of the Church of St. Krzyøa Street in Krakowskie Przedmieúcie in Warsaw, Poland, 28 October 2020, after various churches were targeted after a court ruling that human life has value at every stage of development and therefore should be subject to legal protection. EPA-EFE/WOJCIECH OLKUSNIK POLAND OUT

The decision means only abortions due to incest, rape or a risk to the mother’s health remain legal, setting predominantly Catholic Poland far apart from the European mainstream.

Demonstrators have blamed the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the Roman Catholic Church which has close ties to the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party for the court verdict.

In a rare display of anger against the Church last Sunday, demonstrators in Warsaw, Poznan and Katowice disrupted church services and defaced church buildings.

On Wednesday, organisers called for a nationwide walk-out for women at work. Some employers, including schools, announced a day off to allow people to join the protests.

People take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Krakow, southern Poland, 28 October 2020. EPA-EFE/Art Service 2

Chanting “hypocrites, fanatics”, thousands marched through central Warsaw, some carrying posters that read “Revolution is a woman” and “I’d rather stay home but I have a government to overthrow”.

“In light of plans being announced by organisers for further acts of aggression and profanation, the police will take decisive action. The goal of the police is to ensure public order and safety for all citizens,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

It was not clear which group or plans the ministry was referring to. A mass demonstration is planned in Warsaw on Friday.

The government denies influencing the court but the ruling follows five years of PiS efforts to instil more conservative values in public life in close cooperation with the Catholic Church. It also comes after sweeping judiciary reforms the European Commission says have politicised courts and undermined democratic norms.

More than 70% of Poles say they oppose the ruling, according to a survey published by the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

Supporters of the government were eager for the decision to be implemented. An anti-abortion campaign group, Ordo Iuris, called for its inclusion in the official gazette so that it goes into effect.

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