Let Them Have Fun: Polish Women Strike Against "Barbaric" Anti-Abortion Law

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Tens of thousands of women across Poland have declared a national strike, refusing to do either paid or domestic work, to protest a "barbaric" new law that would make it almost impossible for women in the largely Catholic country to get abortions. Over 5,000 angry women and their supporters marched in Warsaw in the rain on what they dubbed "Black Monday" - in mourning for their reproductive rights - against a law that could send to prison women who have abortions and their doctors.

Poland already severely restricts abortion, which is allowed only if the woman's life is in danger, there is serious risk of damage to a fetus, or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest - which must be confirmed by a prosecutor; activists say tens of thousands of women already cross to Germany or Slovakia to have the procedure. The new law proposed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski's right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government would ban abortion unless a woman's life is in direct danger, period. Women who have abortions face five years in prison for the "death of a conceived child," doctors assisting them could face jail time, and another bill would curb in-vitro fertilization; critics say the bills are so badly written they could also punish miscarriage and prevent prenatal tests or lifesaving surgeries operations for fetuses.

The laws have the support of both PiS and the Catholic Church, which claims the allegiance of about 90% of the country's population and has asked Catholics to pray for "the conscience and the light of the Holy Spirit on all Poles who protect human life from conception to natural death." Both the Church and government dismiss the concerns of women in astonishingly clueless terms: Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski has responded to the protests with, "Let them have fun... We expect serious debate on questions of life, death and birth. We do not expect happenings, dressing in costumes and creating artificial problems."

Meanwhile, the protests have spread across Poland, with women in Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Ireland marching in solidarity for the ideal of "Our Bodies Our Choice." Women and supporters crowded into Warsaw's Castle Square with umbrellas and signs expressing their outrage over what one called an "insane" law. From their signs: "Woman Is Not An Incubator," "We want doctors not missionaries," and most pointedly, "A government is not like a pregnancy - it can be terminated."

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