Polish parliament rejects abortion ban after mass protests

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Poland’s parliament on Thursday rejected an abortion ban after women staged massive protests, that were even supported with a protest in Luxembourg, where the law is already among the most restrictive in Europe.

Right-wing and liberal parliamentarians in the 450-member lower house joined forces to reject the controversial bill by 352 votes to 58, with 18 abstentions.

The vote came after tens of thousands of black-clad women protested across Poland on Monday, as solidarity demonstrations sprang up in European capitals including Berlin, London, Paris and indeed Luxembourg.

Home to 38 million people, Poland sees less than 2,000 legal abortions a year, but women’s groups estimate that another 100,000 to 150,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party told parliament before the vote that his group “would always support protecting the right to life”.

But he said the proponents of the ban were “not going about it (protecting the right to life) in the best way.”

While the PiS once favoured introducing a near-total ban on abortion, the party is well aware that a strong majority of Poles support existing legislation, which allows terminations in certain cases.

Late last month, PiS lawmakers had pushed ahead with the controversial bill that would allow abortions only if the mother’s life was at risk and increase the maximum jail term for practitioners from two years to five.

The citizens’ initiative tabled in parliament by the Stop Abortion coalition would have put women who had terminations at risk of jail terms, though judges could waive incarceration.

Poland’s influential Roman Catholic Church initially gave the initiative its seal of approval earlier this year, though its bishops since spoke out against jailing women.

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