Poland abortion strike: Polish PM Beata Szydlo distances government from ban after women take to streets

Beata Szydlo says she does not approve of foreign minister's strong criticism of the protesters

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 04 October 2016 18:07
Women go on strike in Poland over abortion laws

Poland's prime minister has distanced herself from a proposal to tighten abortion legislation after thousands of women boycotted work and took to the streets to protest against the ban.

Beata Szydlo said she does not approve of her foreign minister's strong criticism of the many Poles who dressed up in black to take part in large protests on Monday.

Ms Szydlo's comments distance herself and her ruling Law and Justice party from the controversial measure and weaken its chances of becoming law.

Polish women protest against a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion in Poland, during a demonstration near EU headquarters in Brussels

"I want to say it very loudly and clearly: the government of Law and Justice was not working and is not working on any law that would change the currently binding regulations," Ms Szydlo said during a news conference.

She said she wants to see calmer emotions surrounding the divisive proposal to impose a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or if the mother's life is at risk.

All views on the matter must be respected, she added.

Protesters during the nationwide women strike in Zamkowy square in Warsaw, Poland

Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with abortion allowed only in cases of rape or incest, if the foetus is badly damaged or if the woman's life in at risk. Many of the protesters slammed the idea of a total ban as "medieval" and "barbaric".

It is unclear if the proposal will fall at the parliamentary commission stage, where it is now, or whether it will still move forward in parliament - where some politicians support it.

The proposal was sent to parliament by an anti-abortion citizens' initiative that gathered 450,000 and is supported by the church.

Opposition to the bill has been massive. Thousands of women donned dark-coloured clothes as a symbol of mourning for the loss of reproductive rights they fear for the day of action, dubbed "Black Monday".

There were also rallies in Brussels and other European cities.

Earlier on Tuesday, foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski called the protests "marginal" and denounced them as "a mockery of important issues".

Ms Szydlo said she did not approve of Ms Waszczykowski's words.

"I summoned him and told him that there will be no approval for that kind of commentary of these events," Ms Szydlo said.

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