Demonstrators disrupt church services across Poland to protest abortion ruling
LODZ, Poland - After Polish officials announced a near-total ban on abortion in late October, protesters responded on Sunday by disrupting church services across the country, some dressing as characters from The Handmaid's Tale, a popular dystopian novel-turned-on-demand-series series by Margaret Atwood about a world that suppresses women, CNN reports.
The protests actually began before Sunday, kicking off on Thursday when Poland's top court ruled that abortion due to fetal defects is unconstitutional. The ruling means the only circumstances in which legal termination can occur are now limited to incidents of rape, incest or when the mother's life in danger.
The ruling sparked demonstrations that spilled into the weekend in cities including Warsaw, Lodz, Poznan, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Krakow -- in defiance of a ban on gatherings of more than five people due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters stormed Poznan Cathedral, in western Poland, at midday on Sunday, shouting abortion rights slogans such as "Catholics need abortions too" and "We've had enough."
CNN reports that police were called to the scene, mass was abandoned, and around 30 protesters were given citations by police, according to social media and Poland's national broadcaster.
Demonstrations also took place in Warsaw, and images emerged on social media showing activists at the altar at the church of Our Lady of Perpetual bearing the slogan: "Let us pray for the right to abortion."
The ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal removed one of the few remaining grounds for legal termination in the country, which already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.
Abortions resulting from fetal defects comprised approximately 98% of all legal abortions carried out in Poland in 2019, according to data from the Polish Ministry of Health.
Additional protests, including a blockade, are anticipated to occur across Poland again on Monday, while a national strike encouraging people to boycott work is scheduled for Wednesday.
While abortion rights protest leaders have accused government officials of pushing the court to tighten abortion restrictions in order to please the Church, religious leaders say they've played no part in influencing the new legislation.
In a statement on Sunday, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki said it "is not the Church that constitutes the law in our Homeland and that it is not bishops who make decisions on the compliance or non-compliance of statutes with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland."
"For her part, however, the Church cannot cease to defend life, nor can she abandon the proclamation that every human being must be protected from conception until natural death," he added.
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