The Polish Abortion Ban: How Did We Get Here?

Why Poland’s abortion laws highlight its contrasting values with its European neighbors.

Lorne Fowler, Staff Writer

On November 27th, 2020, The Polish High Courts ruled abortion as unlawful except in very dire circumstances, with major backlash from both within Poland and from Nations abroad. The European Union has already passed a resolution condemning the Polish Government for the decision, and mass protest from the younger Polish population erupted just after the law was proposed.

yellow bus near high rise building

Image courtesy of Valik Chernetskyi

What exactly is the law?:

The Abortion law, which has already been passed but has not yet been enforced, would amend the previous abortion law passed in 1993 by making it illegal to abort a fetus with significant birth defects. The banning of this aspect of the law would drastically decrease the rate of abortion in Poland as a majority of abortions performed were due to the child having significant defects. It is important to note, however, that abortion is still legal in cases where the mother’s life will be put in significant danger if she gives birth or if the pregnancy is the result of a crime. Many Polish women have begun fleeing to other European nations in hopes of getting safe and legal abortions.

 

Why and how did this happen:

 

Poland, even when compared to its European neighbors, stands out in how much influence the Catholic Church has in both the political and personal life of its citizens, which is the root of their very conservative values that led to the approval of this law. The Catholic Church in Poland, even when compared to other European Nations, is held in such high regard by the Poles due to its influence in preserving Polish national identity and sovereignty in contemporary history. During the Cold War, as part of the Eastern Bloc, The Catholic Church played an important role in keeping the national identity and the sovereignty of Poland as a nation by resisting the attempted secularization brought about by the Soviet Union and Communism. The Poles commitment to their faith allowed for the continued existence of Poland as a nation and the Poles as a people and culture. As a result, Polish values are heavily conservative in nature with very traditionally orthodox Catholic values.

 

This recent attempt on an abortion ban has led many Nations to question how Poland can be so seemingly theocratic and conservative in a secular and post-modern institution like the EU. However, with the understanding of how these traditional values have affected polish national identity, it clears the air of confusion and opens the door to understanding.