Extract from article originally published on Reporting Democracy, 21 April 2020 – accessible here

Author: Claudia Ciobanu

[…] In 2016 an ultraconservative citizen’s initiative sought to tighten Poland’s abortion law, sparking mass demonstrations known as the Black Protests.

Four years later, another ultraconservative initiative is seeking once more to toughen the abortion law by banning terminations of malformed fetuses, which constitute the vast majority of legal abortions performed today.

The draft bill is in parliament thanks to a campaign that gathered almost a million signatures. A second draft law, meanwhile, could potentially introduce prison sentences for sex education teachers.

Both bills have the backing of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which has put conservative social values at the heart of its political agenda.

The protest outside Cezar last Wednesday showed that Polish activists are finding unexpected ways to make their voices heard despite the government’s draconian lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Under restrictions in place at the time of the protest, people were only allowed to leave the house to go to the shop, take a short walk or fulfill other “basic necessities of life”.

“Join the line in front of the Cezar shop, if you have to sort out a basic necessity of life,” said an invitation to protest posted on a Facebook group shortly before the gathering.

That is exactly how Marta Lempart, an activist from the Polish Women’s Strike movement who helped organise the pop-up protest, sees opposition to the draft law, which she says affects women’s health, life choices and dignity, she said.

Women formed similar lines in front of supermarkets and other stores across Poland last week — many holding signs as they went about their regular grocery shopping.

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