In Brief

Poland: Thousands protest against abortion ban

Right-wing government seeks to tighten regulations in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church

Thousands of people protested in Poland yesterday against government plans to ban abortion, with demonstrators in Warsaw waving coat hangers in a grim reference to back-street terminations.

Access to abortions is already strictly controlled in the country. Women can be granted one only if their own health is at risk, their foetus is terminally ill or severely disabled, or if they are pregnant by criminally proven rape or incest.

Now the ruling Law and Justice party looks set to introduce the total ban favoured by the Catholic Church, to which it has strong links.

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo have both said they will vote for a ban and they believe a majority of their MPs will follow suit. Law and Justice controls both houses of parliament.

Kaczynski said that, as a Catholic, he is "subject to the teachings of bishops" on the issue.

The demonstration is just the latest of several mass protests since Law and Justice came into power last year. Its socially conservative government has been criticised by international rights groups and other governments, says the Wall Street Journal.

The party has become increasingly autocratic, taking over the state broadcaster and trying to reshape the country's constitutional court, which it said was hampering its ability to govern.

The demonstrations in Warsaw yesterday were supported by opposition parties. One banner read: "Abortion for the government."

Marcelina Zawisza, of the socialist Razem party, said: "We can't agree for women to be forced to live nine months aware that they'll give birth to a foetus without a head, lungs or heart. The UN say it clearly: it's torture for women."

The legislation banning terminations was drafted by Ordo Iuris, a group of conservative Catholic lawyers, and endorsed by the Conference of Polish Episcopacy.

The lawyers are also pressing for a ban on same-sex marriage, also a policy promoted by the Catholic Church.

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