In Poland, historical events are taking place right now. As The New York Times reports,
Poland's existing abortion law is already one of the most restrictive in Europe. Abortion is permitted in only three cases : a severe fetal anomaly, a threat to the mother's health and life, or a pregnancy from rape or sexual abuse.Because the existing law was not restrictive enough in the eyes of a civil organization called Stop Abortion, they proposed a new legislation to criminalize all abortions. In other words, this legilsation would impose a complete and total ban on abortion for women and doctors, who would face up to five years of jail time.
The proposition got enough signatures and support from the Polish conservative party (PiS) and the Catholic Church that it was considered by the Parliament. The power and influence of the Catholic Church on lawmakers in Catholic countries is considerable (see this excellent blog post about Women in Ireland).
On Monday, October 3rd, about thirty thousand men and women all wearing black clothes protested in the streets of multiple Polish cities. They protested with slogans such as "My body my choice", "Women just want to have FUN-damental rights". Many walked with hangers in their hands. Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski seemed unimpressed by the mass protest as he declared on the radio on the same day:
Let them have their fun [...] by dressing up, screaming silly slogans and vulgarities [they are] making a mockery of very important issues (The Guardian).Nonetheless, today conservative lawmakers reversed their position and voted against the ban. The same members of Parliament backed the proposed legislation just days ago. It is thus undeniable that the protesters were successful in being heard.
Still, the new law is not yet buried, because
the lower house of parliament will still vote tomorrow to either reject the bill completely or return it to the committee for more work (Slate).However, the organization Stop Abortion seems to have lost hope, as they casually declared murdered children lost. The Guardian notes that the Polish Senate speaker suggested a compromise law that would only ban the fetal anomaly exception. This is still a possibility, in which case, protests are likely to continue.
I think it is important to notice how great an impact the Polish protesters had. They were heard and will keep on protesting if they have to, which I find inspiring. They took the power they had and collectively managed to change politicians' votes.