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Sat. May 25th, 2024

Poland’s parliament has set to engage in a crucial debate on Thursday regarding the liberalization of abortion laws in the predominantly Catholic nation, amidst divisions within the ruling coalition casting uncertainty over the outcome.

During the eight-year tenure of the previous right-wing Polish government, women’s rights experienced setbacks, with already stringent abortion laws being further restricted, triggering widespread protests nationwide.

With some of the most stringent abortion laws in the European Union, Poland permits abortion only in cases of sexual assault, incest, or when the life or health of the mother is at risk.

However, following the October elections, a pro-EU government coalition emerged, led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition, along with Third Way and Left groupings, promising reforms in reproductive rights.

Despite months of delay in parliament, where various bills advocating for expanded reproductive rights have languished, frustration has mounted among women and rights groups.

A six-hour debate is slated to commence on Thursday afternoon, focusing on a bill submitted by Tusk’s Civic Coalition to legalize abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, along with three additional proposals from coalition partners.

Yet, the passage of such legislation remains uncertain, with apprehension among some coalition lawmakers, particularly within the Third Way faction, regarding their support for the bills in Friday’s vote.

Furthermore, even if the reforms are approved by parliament, they would necessitate the assent of President Andrzej Duda, a conservative Catholic and ally of the opposition PiS party, who is unlikely to endorse such measures.

Should a deadlock arise, Tusk’s coalition may be compelled to await the presidential elections next year, anticipating the potential ousting of Duda by a liberal candidate, given the coalition’s lack of a three-fifths majority required to override a presidential veto.

Krystyna Kacpura, head of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, emphasized the historic nature of the debate, noting previous failures in advancing similar legislation over the past three decades.

Prime Minister Tusk expressed optimism regarding the coalition’s stance on the legislation, though resistance from conservative quarters, such as the PSL farmers party within the Third Way coalition, poses a significant challenge.

The debate also reignites discussions on the criminalization of abortion assistance in Poland, with activists and medical professionals facing legal repercussions for their involvement in the procedure.

As the debate unfolds, Polish anti-abortion groups have mobilized, staging rallies and religious ceremonies to advocate for the preservation of existing laws, underlining the deep societal divide on the issue.

While public opinion remains divided, with a notable portion supporting abortion liberalization and others favoring a referendum, the ultimate hurdle lies in navigating President Duda’s conservative stance, underscoring the complexities of enacting substantive legislative changes in Poland’s socio-political landscape.

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