Rome. The Senate of the Polish Parliament voted by a large majority, September 29, to approve a legislative proposal which will punish abortionists with up to two years imprisonment. The proposal, entitled “Law to protect Conceived life” now goes to the lower chamber, or Sejm, for study and approval before being signed into law by the President. If enacted, it will replace the current law which, for all practical purposes, allows abortion on demand. It dates from 1956 and was one of a series of similar laws which were imposed on all East European countries that came under Soviet control after the Second World War.
The proposal was passed by a margin of 50 to 17, with 5 abstentions. Abortion will remain legal in only two circumstances: when the life of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy, and when the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act.
Women who resort to abortion will not be punished. Abortionists who are convicted under the proposal could be sentenced to less than the full jail term and even avoid jail by being given compulsory community service.
Despite these flaws, the proposal is a marked improvement on the current law and has evoked a hostile response from abortion promoters nationwide.
John Paul II
Pope John Paul II spoke about the developments in his home country during his weekly audience on October 3. Calling the right to life of the unborn “the key issue in the entire moral order which at the same time delineates the order of human rights as well,” he said that the old law “violates the moral order because it permits the killing of life, both innocent and defenceless.” He called it an “evil inheritance,” said the new proposal was “the first step” towards overcoming it, and prayed “so that what has been brought about will not be destroyed.”
The fiercest battle over the proposal is probably yet to take place. Abortion activists have their best and probably last opportunity to crush it in the Sejm. In their favour is the fact that the President of the Sejm, Mikolaj Kozakiewicz, is himself an abortion promoter and is associated with the Polish affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
Against them is the fact that the forthcoming presidential elections may bring Solidarity leader Lech Walesa to power. Mr. Walesa, the father of eight children, is pro-life and would, if elected, provide them with a formidable enemy among the key players in the closing stages of the current debate. Should the proposal pass the Sjem and Walesa be in the presidential chair, its enactment would be as good as certain.