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Polish PM, lawmakers abandon support for abortion ban after mass protests

A top government official said the bill is being abandoned because the protesters "taught us humility."

By Doug G. Ware
Polish PM, lawmakers abandon support for abortion ban after mass protests
Women protest in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday to oppose a proposed new law to ban all abortions nationwide. Wednesday, members of the Polish ruling party backtracked on the legislation and promised not to approve it. The bill was the result of a citizen petition last month. Photo by Jacek Kadaj/Shutterstock

WARSAW, Poland, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- It appears Poland is backing away from legislation to completely ban all abortions in the country after nationwide street protests opposed the measure.

The Justice and Human Rights Committee of the Polish Sejm recommended Wednesday that the proposal be thrown out by parliament. That decision was followed by members of Poland's ruling party, the Law and Justice (PiS) party, expressing new disapproval for the bill.

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Protests occurred in about 60 cities across Poland recently after the government in Warsaw introduced the proposed law.

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Tens of thousands of citizens and women's rights advocates oppose the idea of barring all abortions, regardless of circumstance, partly because Poland already has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

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Many women and men dressed in black during the demonstrations Monday.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who had previously expressed support for the ban, said Wednesday that it's been all but abandoned.

"I want to state very clearly that the government is not working on any legislation changing the rules on abortion in Poland," she said.

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The minister of science and higher education, Jarosław Gowin, said the sudden reversal on the law was due to the widespread opposition. He said the "black Monday" protests "caused us to think and taught us humility."

Former prime minister Ewa Kopacz said the PiS "backtracked because it was scared by all the women who hit the streets in protest," Britain's The Guardian reported.

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"The protest was bigger than anyone expected. People were astonished," activist Agnieszka Graff said.

The abrupt dismissal of the law came just ahead of a European Parliament debate on women's rights in Poland scheduled for Wednesday evening.

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Under the would-be law, women who receive abortions and physicians who perform them would be subject to five years in prison -- regardless of the reasons for the pregnancy termination. The legislation was the result of a citizen-led petition last month that included more than 100,000 signatures.

The bill will now go back to Poland's Parliament -- with the Justice and Human Rights Committee's recommendation to vote it down -- but Szydlo and other PiS members indicated that they won't support it even if it's resurrected and sent back for approval.

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"The proposal for introducing a complete ban on abortion will definitely not pass," Gowin said.

However, PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński indicated that lawmakers could try to tighten Poland's abortion laws to a lesser degree in the future -- in which case, activists have promised further protests.

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