09:42, November 03 53 0 theguardian.com

2020-11-03 09:42:03
Poland delays abortion ban amid nationwide protests

Poland’s rightwing government has delayed the publication and implementation of a high court ruling that tightens the abortion law and has triggered almost two weeks of nationwide protests.

A government official said on Tuesday that the leaders were taking time to debate the contested ruling and find a solution.

“There is a discussion going on, and it would be good to take some time for dialogue and for finding a new position in this situation that is difficult and stirs high emotions,” said Michał Dworczyk, the head of the prime minister’s office.

The constitutional court ruled last month that aborting foetuses with congenital defects violated the constitution, in effect further tightening what was already one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws.

It would mean the only abortions allowed under Polish law would be in cases of risk to the woman’s life, or crime – meaning rape or incest.

The ruling was scheduled to be formally published on Monday. Unpublished, it has no legal power.

Massive daily anti-government protests have been held by hundreds of thousands of people ever since the ruling. The mostly young protesters have been disregarding the pandemic threat and a ban on public gatherings larger than five people intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has appealed for talks with the protesters and opposition lawmakers to find a solution.

With Poland roiled by the attempt to further restrict abortion, surveys show a large drop in support for the ruling conservative Law and Justice party and for its leader, the deputy prime minister, Jarosław Kaczyński.

The president, Andrzej Duda, who is aligned with the government, has proposed a new law that would allow abortion of foetuses with life-threatening defects but ban them for disorders such as Down’s syndrome. However, this idea is seen as still too restrictive to many people and does not seem likely to win sufficient backing in parliament.

Women’s rights activists are critical of Duda’s proposal and Morawiecki’s invitation for talks, and are planning more protests this week.

Experts on constitutional law say that delaying the publication of the ruling would violate a legal provision that constitutional court rulings be published “without delay”.

“This is by far the worst option,” said Marcin Matczak, a law professor at Warsaw University. “It boils down to this approach that if someone does not like a ruling by the constitutional tribunal, he may not publish it.”

The rulings are published by the government in the Journal of Laws.

Soon after Law and Justice won power in 2015 and took steps to control the constitutional court, the government delayed publication of some of the court’s rulings, by up to two years, and bowed only when pressed by other European Union leaders.

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