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In Poland, Donald Tusk launches into a battle to restore the right to abortion

Poland continues to live to the rhythm of the upheavals of history.

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In Poland, Donald Tusk launches into a battle to restore the right to abortion

Poland continues to live to the rhythm of the upheavals of history. It could become one of the rare countries where abortion would be reauthorized: the Polish Diet, the lower house of the Warsaw Parliament, will examine, starting this Thursday afternoon, a bill aimed at liberalizing abortion, that is to say in fact to repeal the legal provisions which severely restricted the right to abortion during the years when the conservatives were in power. Highly anticipated, the debate remains highly divisive despite the return of pro-European progressives to power, in a country where the Catholic Church remains very influential.

Poland was one of the first countries in the world where abortion was legalized and then normalized: since 1956, the communist regime had authorized doctors to perform abortions "because of the difficult living conditions of the pregnant woman", a rule with broad contours which had led to a massive liberalization of practice in practice. In the 1980s, more than 100,000 abortions were performed each year. Eldorado of abortion, Poland even welcomed in the 1960s and 1970s many pregnant women who came from elsewhere in Europe to have an abortion.

Then the first restrictions on the right to abortion were passed in 1993 with the fall of the Soviet regime, provisions that Lech Walesa refused to censor when coming to power, despite insistent demands from the left. Finally, during the years it was in power, the Law and Justice party (PiS) attempted on numerous occasions to further reduce the number of situations in which abortion remains possible - without success, or at least without direct success. . No legal text has in fact been passed, out of the five attempts made in Parliament between 2011 and 2018. But it is ultimately the Constitutional Court which decides, in 2020, to prohibit by a judgment abortion in the event of malformation of the fetus, leading to a virtual ban. Which Constitutional Tribunal had been largely placed under the supervision of the government, at the end of a judicial reform which earned Poland strong reprimands from its European neighbors.

Since this ruling came into force in 2021, abortion in Poland is only possible in cases of rape or incest, and when the mother's life is threatened.

But since the October elections, the government of Donald Tusk has begun a vast takeover of political institutions, and even more broadly, of all the organs of power, going so far as to liquidate the public media in order to facilitate restructuring, then superbly ignore the decisions of the Constitutional Court following this media coup. While Polish society is very divided regarding a return to the liberalization of abortion, the parliamentary offensive on this subject is a new stage in the duel in which the political forces of the old and new Polish authorities are engaged. Restoring the right to abortion was an important campaign promise of the pro-European Union alliance, during the campaign led by Donald Tusk.

Despite these electoral promises, the draft texts to this effect remained blocked in Parliament, provoking the anger and frustration of feminist associations which defend the right to abortion. The six-hour debate scheduled for this Thursday afternoon is all the more anticipated: “These are politicians who took away our reproductive rights, so it is time for them to give them back to us,” declared for example Krystyna Kacpura , director of the NGO Federation for Women and Family Planning. The Civic Coalition of centrist Prime Minister Donald Tusk intends through this bill to legalize abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.

However, uncertainty reigns as to the outcome of this first debate, which will conclude with a first vote scheduled for Friday. Donald Tusk openly displays his “confidence” in front of journalists, but the result of the vote is however far from predictable.

This is because the subject does not only divide the country along the fault line which separates the pro and anti-Europeans - the supporters of Donald Tusk and those of PiS. Even within Donald Tusk's coalition, the deputies of the Conservative Peasant Party (PSL) have expressed their reservations, and some of them have already announced that they will not support the proposed legislative developments, like MP Marek Sawicki who spoke on this subject on Polish radio without specifying how many of his colleagues could also vote against.

According to the latest poll carried out by the Opinia24 agency, 50% of Poles are in favor of liberalizing abortion laws, while 41% say they do not want the current rules to change. If parliament votes for the reforms, they will still have to be promulgated by Polish President Andrzej Duda, an ally of PiS and a fervent Catholic.

Last month, Andrzej Duda once again vetoed legislation on emergency contraception, so far accessible only by prescription, for girls and women from the age of fifteen, citing his will to “respect the constitutional rights and standards for protecting the health of children”. The government has since announced that it would circumvent this veto by authorizing pharmacists to prescribe the morning-after pill themselves.

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