Massive protest over Polish abortion ban

Alicja Ptak and Alan Charlish
·1-min read

Tens of thousands of people from across Poland have joined a march in Warsaw, the biggest in nine days of protests against a ruling by the country's top court that amounted to a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation.

Defying strict rules that restrict gatherings to five people during the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrators on Friday walked through central Warsaw streets carrying black umbrellas, a symbol of abortion rights protests in Poland, and banners that read "You won't have to walk alone" or "God is a woman".

Military police lined the streets, some of them in riot gear, as the demonstration began.

Organisers said about 100,000 people gathered in the capital following a Constitutional Court ruling on October 22 outlawing abortions due to foetal defects - ending the most common of the few legal grounds left for abortion in Poland and setting the country further apart from the European mainstream.

Daily protests have taken place in towns and cities across the country in the past week and have turned into an outpouring of anger against the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government and the Roman Catholic church closely allied with the ruling party.

Far-right groups that support the court ruling also turned out in small gatherings in Warsaw and TV footage showed police clashing with them to keep one group away from the protesters.

After the ruling goes into effect, women will only be able to terminate a pregnancy legally in the case of rape, incest or a threat to their health.

In an effort to ease tensions, Polish President Andrzej Duda, a government ally, proposed legislation on Friday reintroducing the possibility of terminating a pregnancy due to fetal abnormalities, although only limited to defects that are immediately life-threatening.