The massive protests in Poland against a court decision imposing an almost total ban on abortion are becoming increasingly political, but this very Catholic country is far from changing.
Polls show that Poles have become accustomed to abortion legislation, one of the strictest in Europe, adopted after the fall of communism in a framework of compromise between the State and the Church.
According to this 1993 law, abortion is only authorized in the event of rape or incest, when the life of the mother is in danger or in the event of a serious malformation of the fetus.
In October, the Constitutional Court banned the latter provision on the grounds that it was “incompatible” with the Constitution.
This initiative sparked a wave of protests across the country.
“We are witnessing a surprising mobilization, especially of the younger generations. And in this group, support for a more liberal law is increasing, but it is not the majority,” Adam Szostkiewicz, a political and religious commentator, told AFP.
“The majority remained silent for years, believing that, if the Church says so and the politicians do not question it, then it is evident that it has to be that way,” he adds.
Only 22% of Poles are in favor of free abortion, according to a survey conducted last month by the Kantar Institute. 62% believe that it should be legal in certain cases, and 11% are in favor of a total ban.
– No sexual revolution –
“We are rather very religious, aren’t we? And quite conservative, rooted in a conservative vision of the family and of the roles of women and men,” sociologist Katarzyna Zielinska told AFP.
“There has been no sexual revolution in Poland. On the contrary, we have had a religious renaissance, since the mobilization against the communist regime was associated with religion,” he says.
Under communism, when Poland had a liberal law on the subject and contraceptive methods were unavailable, or ineffective, countless abortions were performed.
Today, there are less than 2,000 legal abortions a year in Poland, according to official data. Feminist organizations estimate that some 200,000 pregnancy terminations are illegally carried out abroad each year.
According to the sociologist Inga Koralewska, the communist regime introduced liberal legislation in 1956 not out of love for feminism but to give “a kick to the Church, the basis of Polish identity” and an ally of the democratic opposition at that time.
When communism collapsed, the state was ruined and the church remained strong and effective. This allowed him to play an active role in the drafting of the current abortion law.
– Fed up –
At that time, the Poles had a more liberal opinion on the matter.
The change since then can be attributed to several factors, such as the fact that politicians – even those on the left – avoid addressing the issue for fear that the Church will mobilize voters against them.
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The situation began to change with the 2016 demonstrations against the tightening of the law, when women began to talk about their own abortions.
For Szostkiewicz, “what is interesting is the radicalization of the liberal group.”
“These people are fed up with the silence of the majority, and fed up with the interference of the Church – allied with the State – in their private affairs and publicly express their indignation,” he adds.
“This radical group will probably gain ground and have an effect on public opinion in general. But will this happen now or in the near future? I don’t know.”