On the 22nd of October, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal (TK) ruled that abortions in cases of foetal impairment were unconstitutional, therefore banning abortion in nearly all situations. The decision, condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee and declared torturous, triggered mass nationwide protests, provoking hundreds of thousands of women to take to the streets in many Polish cities and towns.
Poland already had the strictest abortion laws in Europe before the Tribunal’s ruling, which only allowed the termination of pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, and foetal impairment. Once the law change is done, abortion will not be permitted in the latter case- meaning, women will be forbidden from having an abortion even if the foetus has zero chances of surviving. As some of the protesters put it, many women will become walking coffins. This is inhumane.
The regressive decision to tighten the abortion laws ignited an fire among the Polish women (and some men), which aims to burn the patriarchal rule of the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the church, and their desire to control women’s bodies. The protests have been happening every day from the moment the abortion ban was announced, and the women demand to be heard and granted a basic human right – the right to control what happens to their bodies.
The Polish government is refusing to hear what the women have to say, so we have reached out to the women living in Poland and asked them to share their reactions to the controversial abortion ban.
First, we spoke to Sara, who shared her opinion only a couple of days after the ban was announced.
@Sarah_Goldfinch: To begin with, I would like to point out that I agree with all the slogans appearing at the protests. Regardless of who protested, LGBT+ before, now women, there will always be someone who’s offended. Why should women protest politely when the government takes away our rights? It is sad that the ruling party has been dividing society for such a long time, seeking faults everywhere but not within itself. Starting with Jews, teachers, LGBT+, and doctors.
Today, they take away women’s basic rights and threaten the West. If nothing changes, what’s next? Despite the difficult situation and the rather pessimistic outlooks of many young people, I think it will get better. PiS is losing support, but until the next elections and changes to the abortion law, many women will be forced to experience the greatest trauma of their lives. The next step is to prohibit rape abortion. Many liken it to torture, and I agree with it. I believe it will get better, but it won’t happen soon. The government will probably not give in, even if the majority of the population protest. The present party has nothing to do with democracy, they care only about their own interests.
It has been almost three turbulent weeks since the ban’s announcement, and yet the people in charge of the decision do not show signs of giving up. To make the matter worse, there have been multiple reports of women being harassed by random men for protesting the ban. On the 26th, Klementyna Suchanow, one of the two women who initiated the nationwide Women’s Strike, was physically attacked during a protest. On the 29th, groups of men violently attacked women including a female journalist. This week, Wyborcza, a Polish newspaper, reported that a woman and her companions were stopped and harassed by angry nationalists who attempted to “arrest” them, called them whores, and condemned their “profanation of national and religious symbols”.
Half of Poland’s population is being harassed, attacked and condemned in the name of religion, simply for fighting for their basic rights. This kind of behaviour has no place in the 21st century, and yet, the women are not being heard.
How did you react to the abortion ban?
Amaneii: At first, I felt just sorry. Sorry to go back to the Middle Ages in the 21st century. Sorry that Poland increasingly resembles Russia or Belarus. That we no longer have democracy. And then it just upset me, and I realised I had to act.
Tamczytam: I could not believe it and still can’t. This ban is so absurd that it feels like a bad dream from which I just can’t wake up.
Smieje_sie: I got very angry. I wanted to cry and scream. It’s unfair and harmful.
Natalia: I was angry. How else can you react differently being a young woman whose rights are being denied in the 21st century?
Have you been to any protests? If so, where? What was it like?
Amaneii: I was in Skierniewice. There weren’t many people. I.e., a lot, but not as much as in the big cities. It was okay, calm.
Tamczytam: Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to take part in any protests myself (I am from a small town), but even here women express their dissatisfaction. Yesterday, they lit candles in the town square and took to the street, and despite the small size of the town it was crowded. I am proud of them.
Smieje_sie: Yes, I was in Wałbrzych on two protests. There weren’t many people, it was quiet. I was also in Wrocław on the “walk of hangers”. It was completely different there, walking down the street with a few thousand people, shouting the same things. It fills you with optimism and strength.
Natalia: No, I was not. I must admit that I am a bit scared. After the recent LGBT+ protests where many people have been beaten by the police, treated with gas, and placed in custody for defending their rights, I would sincerely be afraid. On the other hand, paradoxically, the police in some cities in Poland now support the strike. So, as you can see there is a risk, but I am proud of those who protest and I am wholeheartedly with them.
Why do you think the abortion ban happened? What do you blame?
Amaneii: The ban on abortion was introduced because the PiS and the Church’s dictatorship so wished. I just blame them. At the head of Godek.*
Tamczytam: I don’t know who specifically is responsible for this law, but he must hate women very much. Our government is showing its authoritarian side once again, showing that they can do whatever they want. They do not act in the interests of the citizens. They do not even act according to the will of the citizens!
I hope that, in accordance with the demands – they will get the fuck out as soon as possible. Because a government that does not protect its citizens is only fit for being thrown the fuck out (of power).
Smieje_sie: I would like to know what is in the mind of the people behind it. I blame Kaja Godek, Conferences, PiS, and the Constitutional Tribunal.
Natalia: I don’t know, I have no idea why anyone got the idea. Maybe dear Mrs. Kaja Godek, who herself has a son with Down syndrome, thinks that if she could give birth to and raise a child with a genetic defect then everyone should? However, Down syndrome is a defect that does not affect the quality of life of these people in such a way as, for example, Edwards syndrome, where children do not often live to their first birthday and all this time they suffer from heart, lung or kidney disorders. I will not elaborate on this because it is terrible.
And I blame the government, which is not guided by ethics and heart, but makes all decisions dependent on the constitution, when the document is only a document.
*Kaja Godek is an ultra-conservative Polish anti-abortion activist.
How did this event affect what you think about Poland as a country?
Amaneii: I believe that we are now a country like Russia and Belarus. A complete lack of democracy.
Tamczytam: I love my country with all my heart. I cannot imagine emigration. Here I have my family, my business (which is currently struggling due to the government’s actions). Here I have my corner of the world, the sea which I love, here is my place. The current situation in the country terrifies me, saddens me, shocks me and clearly proves that the wrong people have seized power.
Smieje_sie: While the government is as it is, and the mentality of the people is lagging far behind basic human rights, my opinion will not change. It will be negative. In the end, I am patriotic so I would very much like things to change.
Natalia: I honestly expected it, but I think that at this point women (and also men) will not allow to be walked over. Something has burst and there will be smoke.
Do you think the protests will be successful in overturning the abortion ban?
Amaneii: I don’t know if they will, but I believe it deeply. As long as we live, we will fight for it.
Tamczytam: I very much hope that the revolt will change the situation. If not, it will only mean that we are pawns and that the government that is supposed to support the citizens, is working against them.
Smieje_sie: I’m fighting for it, so I have to believe it.
Natalia: First of all, I hope that someone will finally sort it out. Women should have the right to decide about their child just as they have the right to decide whether to have a limb amputated if it endangers their health and life. I wish our opinion would start to count, so that no woman would be afraid to say “fuck you” if something is not compatible with her choice.
What are your hopes in terms of women’s rights in Poland?
Amaneii: I hope that women in Poland will have the same rights as almost everywhere in the world. That we will be able to decide about ourselves, our bodies.
Tamczytam: I have no special expectations; I just wish that our rights were not limited. That we wouldn’t go back to the fucking Middle Ages, because it is a matter of time when women will be deprived of their voting rights, then enslaved and forbidden from having an opinion. We will not allow it!
Smieje_sie: I want things to be normal – the right to abortion, 50% of women on the ballot, and no harmful stereotypes (but the latter has to be changed in society, not in the government).
Natalia: (no answer given).
Do you see yourself living in Poland in the future?
Amaneii: I see myself living in Poland, because so far, I have no other prospects and I hope that in three years the Poles, as Morawiecki said this year, ” will go to the elections in large numbers” and will choose wisely this time.
Tamczytam: Yes, I want to stay here. However, I am afraid for my fate. I am afraid to plan to start a family. I am newly married, and there have already been topics about children between me and my husband. Now there is no way I will get pregnant. We are scared. Simply, humanly. Both of us.
Smieje_sie: Yes, I want to live here.
Natalia: I sincerely hope to be brave enough to move to another country in the future. I don’t want to have children here, nor do I want to constantly fear for their future. (I won’t stay) unless the political situation finally changes.
Is there anything you’d like people outside of Poland to know?
Amaneii: I would like people in the world to simply know about our situation in Poland, that there would be no misinformation, that the truth is shown and presented.
Tamczytam: I would like others to know that women are strong, and that we will not allow our rights to be taken away from us. We are in solidarity and we will not fall apart. This is an important issue and we will not allow it to be overshadowed by the pandemic.
Smieje_sie: I sure would like them to know that we are pissed off and that there is no point in arguing with our government. And of course, thank you for the support from all over the world, it is lovely and warms the heart.
Natalia: I would like people not to be indifferent to this crisis – the wider the scale of awareness the better. Some time ago, the whole world was talking about the golden train, now let’s talk about the red lightning.*
* The Golden Train is a Nazi Gold Train legend that was assumed to have been discovered a few years back.
Thanks to the mass anti-government protests, the abortion ban has been delayed. However, the fight is far from over. As history has shown, women will have to trudge through hell, and they will be mocked and assaulted before they are granted even basic human rights.
The above interviews have been translated from Polish to represent the original text as closely as possible.
Want to help?
You can donate money to Aborcja Bez Granic, an organisation which provides safe abortions in and outside of Poland. You can also take a look at and donate to Aborcyjny Dream Team, who aim to end the stigma around abortions.
Other things you can do right now:
Follow @strajk_kobiet on Instagram to keep an eye on the developments.
Follow these hashtags on social media to stay up to date: #StrajkKobiet #PiekloKobiet #PolandAbortionBan #wypierdalac
And of course, you can share this article to make sure that the Polish women’s voices are heard.