I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to ask you to join us for evaluation of the workshop we held in April in Warsaw, when we discussed the problem of growing anti-choice opposition in our region. Several months passed and anti-choice article was included in the new constitution of Hungary, dangerous anti-choice amendments appeared in Russian law regulating abortion. Finally, in Poland, in July, the Parliament has almost voted in favour of criminalisation of abortion.
Polish abortion law is one of the most restrictive in Europe and even more restrictive in practice than on paper. Although the law allows termination of pregnancy under three conditions - including for therapeutic reasons and when it results from a criminal act - legal abortion is not accessible for women. Nevertheless, fundamentalists and the Catholic Church find the annual 641 pregnancy terminations (out of ten million women of reproductive age in 2010) unacceptable and are calling for further restrictions. The main anti-choice organization holds regularly exhibitions consisting of pictures combining images of homicides (Holocaust, Rwanda, etc) with pictures of dead massacred bodies pretending to be images of aborted fetuses. Anti-choice rallies are held regularly in front of Warsaw hospital performing abortions.
As you may remember a in July, the Polish Parliament debated a bill that would totally ban abortion in Poland, even if a woman's life were in danger. The left-wing party put forward a proposal to reject the bill during the first reading but the other political parties demanded the bill be referred to committee for consideration, and their proposal won by a vote of 261 to 155. The draft bill, named "On the protection of human life from the moment of conception" - was prepared by the Committee of Legislative Initiative, a group fanatic opponents of abortion. The leftist Democratic Left Alliance Party presented another bill calling for liberalization of abortion. It has been based on the draft law prepared by the Federation for Women and Family Planning and it aims at introducing abortion on demand and facilitating women’s access to reproductive health services.
In September the Parliament rejected both (liberal and restrictive) draft bills changing abortion law. The analysis of the votes revealed that the dangerous provision was rejected by the majority of merely 5 votes, while the liberal one was rejected by the vast majority of Parliamentarians after the first reading. As a result of dismay caused by these developments, pro-choice activists formed pro-choice civic initiative. It is called TAK DLA KOBIET (Yes For Women) and it is currently promoting its new draft bill entitled “Law on responsible parenthood and other reproductive rights”. It stipulates abortion on demand up to 12th week, and changes current provisions regulating access to sexual and reproductive health services. The initiative had 3 months to collect 100 000 signatures in order to be able to present the bill in the Parliament. It failed to collect the necessary amount of the signatures. It was mostly due to the lack of mobilisation on our side.
As you see, after the workshop we were got big amount hands-on exercises in Poland, and we also heard from Hungary and Russia.We are currently thinking about follow up of the project and concentrating on monitoring the existing laws in countries with vocal anti-choice opposition.I would like to ask you as participants of the workshop to answer to the following questions:
- Did you have opportunity to engage in your work in activities regarding anti-choice opposition?
- If so, what was the situation and developments?
- Did you use any of the knowledge you might have acquired during the workshop?
- After being in the situation, how would you define your needs?
It was great to meet all of you and I am eager to hear from all of you. It will be great if you will let us know about your whatabouts. Be so kind to send us the answers at your earliest conveninece.
All the ebst, Katarzyna Pabijanek