The collective voice of 100,000 people has been well and truly heard by the Polish parliament. As 60 cities witnessed the power of the ‘Black Monday’ demonstrations, Poland’s political elite has had to succumb to the people’s will.
‘Black Monday’ will forever be remembered as an important moment in the plight of Polish women. On 3rd October 2016, the country was overrun by a wave of anger, as thousands of women declared their rejection to the proposed changes to abortion laws, which would effectively impose a total ban on abortions. Their frustration echoed throughout the state and forced the parliament to dismiss the controversial proposal outright.
Today, 352 Polish MPs voted against the bill whilst 58 MPs voted in favour, thus ensuring that the proposal faced a resounding defeat.
Following the unprecedented scenes on Monday, where tens of thousands of people descended onto the streets of Warsaw and other Polish cities, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Gowin, admitted that Monday’s protests had ‘caused us to think and taught us humility’.
The government now has to contend with a humiliating defeat. Despite some politicians suggesting that a compromise may be reached imposing some limitations on abortions, Monday’s demonstrations show that there is little appetite for greater restrictions on women’s reproductive rights in Poland.
Yet, the fight continues. Whilst the proposal has been comprehensively defeated, Polish women still face a range of challenges when it comes to their reproductive rights. The high cost of abortions in Poland (€600-700), doctors’ refusal to administer abortions due to moral objections, and the existing laws restricting the cases in which women can get abortions, collectively ensure that Polish women lack genuine autonomy when it comes to their bodies.
Monday’s events have highlighted the power of protest. As thousands of women mobilised themselves and rejected the far-reaching proposal, the government had little choice but to listen to their concerns. Krystyna Kacpura, a key voice for women’s rights, declared that Polish women have ‘woken up from a long dream’.Today’s news from Poland should serve as encouragement for further progress to be made in the liberalisation of the country’s abortion laws.
If ‘Black Monday’ has taught as anything it is that governments can still be subjected to the will of the people. The success of the protest should not be overlooked, but there is much work left to do in the fight for women’s reproductive rights.
The MTV Staying Alive Foundation supports youth-led organisations, including in Poland, to advance young people’s sexual health and rights. If you’d like to read more about our Polish grantee IFMSA, please click here.