A bill completely banning abortions was narrowly rejected by the Polish parliament. Lawmakers voted 191-186 to reject the bill with 5 abstentions. The bill came forward to Parliament as a result of a citizen petition that collected 600,000 signatures in two weeks. It overwhelmingly passed its first vote (254-141) in July and was then delegated to a committee for further work, which rejected it on Aug. 19 by a vote of 45-22.
Currently, women in Poland can only have an abortion if the child has a serious physical or mental defect, if having the child threatens the health or life of the mother, or if the mother suspects she is pregnant because of rape. If the pro-life bill had passed it would have scrapped most of the exceptions to abortion.
On Aug. 31, the leading party of the governing coalition, Civic Platform (PO), introduced party discipline in voting to defeat the measure. Nevertheless, 15 of its members still voted against getting rid of the bill – while 160 voted in favour. Nobody from the Polish People’s Party (PSL) or Law and Justice (PiS), the main opposition party, were in favour of rejecting the measure. All 136 PiS MPs present voted against scrapping the bill. Every MP present from the pro-abortion Democratic Left Alliance voted in favour of rejecting it.
“The Platform feels that the current abortion compromise is the best. We are not in favour of liberalizing it, and on the other hand, we will absolutely not tolerate the thought that there can be an absolute abortion ban in Poland,” said Jarosław Katulski from the governing PO after voting.
During debate, Bolesław Piecha from PiS said, “What is there to discuss? When life begins, it is already determined. It begins at the moment of conception.”
“It is worth remembering, though, that not long ago, this compromise was the “great achievement” of pro-life movements,” writes Jacek Sapa, a member of the committee for the “Stop Abortion” bill initiative, in Nasz Dziennik. “It turned out that for 191 of our representatives, the values that make up civil society are not important anymore and the voice of 600,000 Poles may be ignored. We can, however, change this…elections to parliament are coming up; on Oct. 9, we ourselves will decide for whom we will vote.”
There will be political fallout from the vote, as the Polish pro-life PRO Foundation will issue certificates for pro-life and pro-family candidates to inform voters during the upcoming election.
Also, the SLD presented its own broad pro-abortion bill, which was rejected at first reading by a margin of 369-31 (with two abstentions). The bill would have allowed for full access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, government funding of abortion as well as contraceptives and in vitro fertilization, and sex education.