Natalia Organista has finished giving her last class at the university at four in the afternoon. He has stopped at home to rest for a while before attending the seven o'clock demonstration in Warsaw called by the feminist organization Strajk Kobiet through social networks. The place of the protest is the same as the day before: in front of the house of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Deputy Prime Minister of the Polish Government. The reason: to protest again against the decision of the Constitutional Court to restrict abortion as much as possible in a country with one of the most restrictive termination of pregnancy laws in Europe. Since this Thursday, the Polish justice, controlled in part by judges related to the Executive, considers abortion unconstitutional in the event that the fetus suffers a malformation or irreversible disease. The ruling triggered a multitude of protests in the country's main cities. Thousands of citizens came out this Friday for the second day in a row to demonstrate against the veto on abortion.
In the capital, the police arrested 15 protesters on Thursday and used pepper spray to disperse those who crowded in front of the building where the Deputy Prime Minister resides, the main architect of the ultra-conservative drift that the EU's sixth economy is experiencing since the formation extreme right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), which he directs himself, took power five years ago. This sentence against abortion is the latest chapter in a PiS campaign against women's rights, to which is added the enormous influence of the Catholic Church in the country. "The situation is getting worse, they are taking away our freedoms, we have to act," says Organista, 35, who wants to become a mother one day. "But without anyone deciding for me." The Constitutional ruling further divides a completely polarized society between those for and against the Government; those who want a more traditional Poland away from European values and those who reject this idea outright.
The ruling party, which defends Christian traditions and values in public life, has always had as its objective the outlawing of abortion, as well as the control of contraceptive methods. One of the first measures when the PiS came to power was to restrict access to the morning-after pill, which until then could easily be bought at the pharmacy. The Executive approved a norm to require a medical prescription to validate the use of this method.
In 2016, the PiS already presented a law in Parliament that established the prohibition of abortion and the imposition of prison sentences to those who practice it. But then thousands of women in favor of free choice took to the streets and the Kaczynski government was forced to back down. "Now because of the pandemic, it is more difficult to repeat that revolution," says Agnieszka Graff, one of the most recognized feminist writers in Poland, by telephone from Warsaw. This academic is one of the analysts consulted who recognize that the Constitutional ruling did not surprise much. "It was expected. They have tried several times. The Episcopate has put great pressure on the Government. And Kaczynski himself is cornered because he sees how a growing sector of his party is becoming even more radical ”. Graff refers to the emerging figure of the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro, a partner in the coalition that maintains the PiS in government, a strong defender of the traditional Christian family and contrary to the rights of the LGTBI community.
Ziobro, who according to analysts aspires to succeed Kaczynski at the head of the party when the party retires, has further radicalized the controversial position of the Polish government on women's rights, also emboldened by increasing pressure from the Polish Church for impart doctrine through politics.
Outside the Istanbul Convention against gender violence
Last July, the Minister of Justice announced that Poland was beginning the procedures to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention against gender violence, a Council of Europe treaty that was ratified by the country in 2015 (with the former moderate right-wing Executive Platform Civic). A year before Poland joined this pact, Ziobro said that an agreement was not needed to know that a woman should not be beaten, because "the gospel" already says so.
What this ultra-conservative politician now maintains is that the Istanbul Convention promotes gender ideology because it leaves open the definition of women beyond their biological sex, and that goes against their moral principles. When he announced the exit of the pact, Ziobro stressed that Polish legislation is "exemplary" in the protection of women and that instead this agreement was written in an ambiguous language and full of "ideological issues".
The ultra-conservative legal organization Ordo Iuris, known in Poland for suing against LGTBI rights activists, this summer launched a campaign to collect signatures in favor of the abandonment of the Istanbul Convention under the slogan "Yes to family, no to gender" . “This organization has a lot of influence in the Government, especially in the most radical wing. They are religious fanatics, ”says Graff. Version not shared by Rafal Dorosinski, Ordo Iuris legal advisor. “We are concerned about women, and they must be protected. But not under the ideological premises of the Istanbul agreement that have nothing to do with fighting violence, "he defends on the phone. “There is an ideological agenda that Western countries and the EU want to impose on us on family, marriage and human rights issues. We are not going to accept it ”, he adds.
The indignation on the part of Polish citizens against this campaign of harassment of their rights was palpable this Friday in the streets of Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan … “I have spoken with my students and they are angry, they feel humiliated, sad at what it's happening, ”says Elzbieta Korolczuk, professor of social movements at the University of Warsaw. “We have no choice (but to protest). Although I believe that this battle we are not going to win this time in the street, but by clinging to the law, and perhaps going to the European Court of Human Rights ”. For now, the vast majority of women who want to have an abortion will only be able to exercise their right if they have money and friends abroad.