BRUSSELS – Poland’s right-wing government has delayed the implementation of a court ruling imposing an abortion ban almost entirely after two weeks of the largest protests the country has experienced since Communism collapsed in 1989.
The country had one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws before their Constitutional Court ruled on October 22 that the termination of pregnancy because of fetal abnormalities – one in three The reason for legal abortion is almost the only one done in this country – in violation of the Constitution.
That ruling would make the current abortion law more restrictive. But on Tuesday, the government indefinitely postponed the publication of the court ruling, leaving it with no legal force, in a clear response to the protests. For the change to take effect, the government will have to publish a ruling by November 2.
The government can still announce a verdict at any time, as it does with other controversial rulings, even though legal experts believe doing so would violate the Constitution.
“A discussion is going on,” said Michal Dworczyk, head of the prime minister’s office. “In this difficult and emotional situation, it’s best to give yourself some time to talk and find a new position.”
Ewa Letowska, a law professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences and a former judge at the Constitutional Court, said the government’s delay was illegal.
“It is imperative to publish the court decisions,” she said. “Although there have been objections to the ruling, some of which are legitimate, delaying publication is unconstitutional.”
Prior to the decision of the Constitutional Court, Poland allowed termination of pregnancy in three cases: in the case of an abnormal fetus, a threat to a woman’s health, and incest or rape.
In fact, most legal abortions – 1,074 out of 1,100 performed in the country last year – are due to fetal abnormalities. However, legal abortions make up only a small fraction of the abortions performed by Polish women who seek to terminate abroad or undergo risky illegal procedures. .
The 22 October court ruling sparked outrage in the streets of Poland. Ignoring Covid-19’s restrictions and the soaring threat of new coronaviruses, hundreds of thousands of people appeared, holding banners that read “I wish I could cancel my government. “And” This is war “.
Protests across the predominantly Roman Catholic country also reflected greater anger toward the ruling party over the erosion of democracy and other grievances, including handling the pandemic.
Critics accuse the government of having an abortion in order to put an abortion ban into effect. They said that the court was under the jurisdiction of the executing party, which appointed 14 of its 15 judges.
The government led by the Law and Justice party has also been accused by experts and the European Union of taking control of the judiciary. The president of the court, Przylebska, is a longtime friend of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s most important party president and politician.
Some protesters disrupted church services and confronted priests, attacking the organization of the Catholic Church, which has a special place in Polish society after supporting the campaign. fight against communism. The church is a close ally of the ruling party.
Last week, Mr. Kaczynski called on his conservative supporters to “protect Poland, protect patriotism” and “protect Polish churches”, remarks that can be understood as encouraging them. conflicts with protesters.
“This is the only way we can win this war,” he said.
Although the protests were mostly peaceful, far-right activists, mostly young men dressed in black, armed with tear gas cans and flares, sometimes confronted protesters in a manner. violently.
In response to the social unrest, President Andrzej Duda submitted a “proposed change” to Congress to alleviate the restrictions supported by the court by permitting the abortion of pregnant babies shows abnormal “lethal”. It will still prohibit abortion in case of other conditions such as Down syndrome.
In Poland there is little institutional support available to families with children with disabilities, leaving parents to take care of themselves after the child is born.
With polls showing support for the ruling party and Mr. Duda declining since the protests began, a session of Congress allegedly to review the president’s proposal on Wednesday took postponed until mid-November. A lawmaker from the ruling party said the session was postponed because of the pandemic.
Barbara Nowacka, an opposition lawmaker, said the government postponed the session of parliament in the face of strong public opposition.
“They are frightened by protests,” she wrote on Twitter.
Analysts say the president’s proposal has a small chance of getting full support from lawmakers, as it does not meet the request of either party in the debate.
Anatol Magdziarz Contribution reports from Warsaw.