Barbara Nowacka, who leads a small center-left party currently within the “Civic Coalition” led by the main liberal opposition Civic Platform (PO), has announced that the parliamentary caucus will support a legislative measure that will make abortion on demand available before the end of the 12th week of pregnancy. However, the measure is opposed by a former conservative deputy, Paweł Poncyljusz, who joined the Civic Coalition for the 2019 parliamentary election.
The first reading of the citizens’ initiative, which was submitted to the Lower House of Parliament by the committee “Legal abortion without compromises,” is to be voted on this week. The proposal is fronted by Marta Lempart, the leader of the “Women’s strike” group that led the protests against the tightening of abortion regulations back in the autumn of 2020. The Women’s Strike protests, which have since died out in Poland, involved the defacing of church properties and clashes with the police, while the organization overplayed its hand by making demands for the overthrow of the government.
Nowacka told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that during the previous parliament, she had proposed a legislative initiative called “Save Women,” which she felt had offered a more comprehensive approach involving sex education and availability of contraception. However, she added that the “Women’s Strike” proposal was a good starting point for debate.
Another deputy from the main opposition party, Monika Wielichowska, said that her party would be prepared to introduce amendments at the committee stage of the bill that would oblige any woman to first consult with a doctor and psychologist before accessing an abortion. She also said she would propose free prenatal testing, free access to the “morning after” pill, and improvements to sex education in school. She additionally criticized the current ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), for allowing prosecutors, priests, and PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński to make decisions on behalf of women.
The draft proposal is, however, opposed by some more conservative-minded deputies in the main opposition parliamentary caucus. Paweł Poncyljusz said that he felt the draft was unacceptable and should not be the subject of further parliamentary debate. Poncyljusz opposes abortion on demand but says that there is a need to return to the previous abortion law which allowed for abortion if it could be proven that the fetus was seriously damaged. He also said he was disappointed that the ruling party had not accepted such a compromise. However, he said he would not comment on whether some of his colleagues who share his doubts would vote against the proposed bill.
Until the intervention of the Polish Constitutional Court in 2020, abortion in Poland was legal if the woman’s health was in danger, the pregnancy had come about as a result of an illegal act such as rape or incest, or there was proof that the fetus was seriously deformed. A decision by the Constitutional Court removed the provision allowing abortion in cases of a deformed fetus on the grounds of the constitution’s provision guaranteeing the right to life.
The PO’s implicit support for abortion on demand is a sign the party is turning sharply to the left on such issues. It has also decided to back same-sex unions and same-sex education in schools. Back in 2001 when the party was founded, it held moderate and conservative stances on such issues.