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‘You have blood on your gown,’ women tell Poland's top judges after banning almost all abortions

“YOU have blood on your gowns,” women protesting across Poland told the country’s top judges last night following their decision to ban almost all abortions.

Poland’s constitutional court ruled that abortions in the case of foetal defects are unconstitutional yesterday, with Chief Justice Julia Przylebska saying that they were “incompatible” with the constitution.

She was among far-right and Catholic politicians who argued that the termination of a pregnancy where the foetus has congenital abnormalities denies the protection of the life of every individual.

Poland is already one of the strictest countries in Europe for restrictive abortion laws, one of the two countries in the European Union which denies legalised abortion on request.

Prior to Thursday’s ruling, a law introduced in Poland in 1993 legalised abortions in instances of rape and incest, where pregnancy poses a risk to the woman’s health and foetal defects.

However, this last clause was challenged and repealed yesterday, prohibiting abortion in most cases and making terminations of pregnancy more difficult for Polish women.

Under the new law, women in Poland can face up to five years in prison for having or performing an illegal abortion.

Leah Hoctor, Europe regional director for the Centre for Reproductive Rights, said the judgement puts the health and lives of women at great risk and “violates Poland’s obligations under international human rights treaties to refrain from retrogressive measures that roll-back women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health care.”

Amnesty International researcher Esther Major said: “Legal prohibitions on abortion do not prevent abortion or reduce the rates of abortion; they serve only to damage women’s health by pushing abortions underground or forcing women to travel to foreign countries to access abortion care they need and to which they have a right.

“Although all women may be affected by this cruel judgement, marginalised groups of women who cannot afford to travel will disproportionately suffer the consequences of the judges’ actions today.”

Women’s rights organisations have surged into the streets to protest against the ruling.

In a number of videos posted on social media on Thursday night by grassroots social movement Women’s Strike (Strajk Kobiet), protesters can be seen on the streets of Warsaw, addressing the court with signs saying: “You have blood on your gowns” and “Shame.”

“There is a pandemic, but this is what was used to take away [our] human rights,” Strajk Kobiet posted on Twitter.

“We don’t want to give up the remnants of this country’s dignity to dictatorship.”

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