On Thursday the Polish Constitutional court banned abortion in Poland. Some people say that it didn’t really happen, as the current tribunal is not truly legal - so its ruling does not count (more on that - below). I don’t think that matters though: the current government, president, and parliament treat this tribunal as legal. They have, after all, selected the judges - that’s a whole nother story I will explain later.
What I want you to see now is how scary this situation is. And that it does affect you.
The new reality in Poland means that we are now a country where abortion is pretty much impossible to get for any reason.
The most horrifying part of this ruling is the reason why it was made. Or rather: the word they are all using to describe it. They say that they have prevented “eugenics”. Wait, what? Yes, eugenics.
What is eugenics? It’s a highly controversial, if not very unethical belief system and practice that aims to improve the genetic quality of the human population. Selective breeding. It’s based on the belief that some groups of people are superior, and that those carrying the “worse genes” should be removed from the population.
Until this week, abortion in Poland was already highly restricted. Poland had one of the most restrictive laws for terminating pregnancies. We called it “a compromise”. A compromise between a state and church - yes, literally. This “compromise” was agreed on in 1993, and it allowed for abortion in 3 situations:
in cases of serious threat to the life or health of the pregnant woman, as attested by two physicians,
cases of rape or incest confirmed by a prosecutor,
and cases in which prenatal tests, confirmed by two physicians, demonstrated that the fetus was seriously and irreversibly damaged.
Condition #3 was just removed. And they called it “eugenics”. I have no words for how disgusting it is.
In 2016 I started working on The Choice. Why 2016? This is when the current government started its crusade. Crusade they have finally won. In 2016 they proposed legislation to outlaw abortion, and 30,000 women protested. They marched in cities dressed in black - we called it Black Protest. It worked -- the lawmakers voted against the proposed law.
Now, what changed in 2020?
In 2016 it was the government and parliament who tried to ban abortion. Today - they used the Constitutional Court. A court that not everybody agrees has a right to be ruling at all. There is quite a big controversy around that, you can read more here.
And now - this illegitimate court ruled on an extremely controversial decision. So controversial that even people who are usually opponents of reproductive rights -- fully agree that this ruling is horrific. The wording around it is only one horrible aspect. But then -- how about the timing?
We are in the middle of the pandemic. Worldwide, the situation is highly alarming. Poland is one of the countries with the highest number of infected people. We are reaching 16,000 cases per day. The government is preparing for another lockdown, and people are not allowed to gather. This is of course understandable and very much needed to flatten the curve again. But looking from a perspective of the recent years: with taking over the Constitutional Court -- people went on the streets to protest. With the 2016 tries for banning abortion -- people went on the streets to protest. On various other occasions -- for the last 4 years, Polish people went on the streets to protest. And now -- how are they supposed to protest?
This is what the government is counting on, I have no doubts: they hope that some people will stay at home, afraid of the virus. And rightfully so. They also now can use the tools that they would not be allowed to use freely -- if not the pandemic. They can order quarantine. They can order fines. They can say people are dangerous -- even if they simply march peacefully.
But people will protest again. They have already started. I am very proud of those who have the courage to go there and shout. I’ve heard that some of them have already been arrested. The police are treating these protestors as the enemy and using tear gas on them.
I am deeply upset. While working on The Choice, I have learned a lot about abortions obtained for medical reasons, often later in pregnancy. The story we are working on releasing now - is such a story. You know her already, it’s Kristen. Her interview was the most heartbreaking and emotional that I ever had. I’ve spent the recent months, going through every detail Kristen shared with me -- and it was impossible for me to even talk to my spouse when I was working on it, her story was hitting me that hard. And who am I? I just recorded it, I have never lived through it…
I cannot imagine the pain inflicted now on Polish women.
The scariest thing is how hard it will be to go back even to this “compromise” we had until now. It is not a bill that another government or parliament can simply change. To revoke this one -- we will need a completely new Constitutional Court.
This is where I would love to end - but I can’t. Poland is a small country. We do not have much influence on what’s happening globally. Yes, the situation there is upsetting, but truly, does it matter, and hey - what can we do other than nod our heads with sadness?
Well, you can do something. You can move your butt and vote. Yes, vote in the US elections. Vote in whichever country you live in.
The threat of revoking Roe v. Wade in the US is becoming alarmingly real. I don’t have to explain it here, everyone here probably knows that very well.
Yet many of us think that our votes do not really matter. What can this one vote change? Does it really affect your life? I hope that now you can see - that it truly does.
Vote. You can do this one, extremely important thing.
*Pictures taken from various Polish news websites.