Poland’s right wing Law and Justice party (PiS) government has delayed implementation of the court ruling that would outlaw almost all abortion, after a wave of protests and direct action.
Michał Dworczyk, the head of the prime minister’s office, told Polish media: “There is a discussion going on, and it would be good to take some time for dialogue and for finding a new position in this situation, which is difficult and stirs high emotions”.
This is not the first time Polish activists have had to defend Poland’s limited abortion rights. In 2016, when the government attempted to push similar anti-abortion legislation through parliament, it was forced to back down by the women’s strike movement. Back four years later the PiS government tried another route through the courts, having already packed the constitutional judiciary with right wing judges.
The anti-choice ruling of the constitutional court has sparked the largest protests in Poland since the Solidarność movement in 1989, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets, defying both coronavirus and government bans on protests. Polish Women’s Strike have made demands which go beyond defending existing abortion rights, covering women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, the separation of church and state, healthcare provision, education, and full judicial independence
It is important the movement does not demobilise. Ana Oppenheim, a Polish socialist feminist activist who recently returned there from Britain, warns against complacency:
“At the moment, the government doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to publish the ruling or make it law, hoping to kick the can down the road until the protests fizzle out. This shows that the uprising has scared the ruling party. But it’s too early to celebrate. We need to stay alert and get ready to be back in the streets when the topic inevitably returns.”
Women’s Strike should use the momentum of the protest movement and the government’s hesitation to push on for more of their demands.