Police on Thursday used tear gas on protesters after Poland’s top court ruled to further tighten one of Europe’s strictest abortion laws.
In Warsaw, police gassed a crowd near the residence of ruling Law and Justice Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the architect of Poland’s nationalist remake over the past five years, as thousands gathered across the country in impromptu demonstrations.
Police said that 15 people were detained overnight in the capital and it asked courts to penalize 89 protesters after demonstrators threw rocks at authorities.
Poland’s high court, dominated by judges appointed by the ruling party, said that a 27-year-old rule allowing the termination of pregnancies due to damaged fetuses was unconstitutional.
The verdict means that women would not be able to get abortions even when the fetus does not stand a chance to live outside the womb.
“In the darkness cast by the pandemic, through the back door, without an open debate in parliament, fanatics are legalizing torture,” Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak, a left-wing lawmaker in the parliament, wrote on Twitter. “This is not the end of the fight.”
Activists have called for further protests near Kaczynski’s residence.
The Constitutional Tribunal, whose mandate is questioned by the EU after controversial overhauls carried out by Law and Justice, ruled in favor of parliamentarians from the conservative political movement who contested the law.
Human rights groups and opposition lawmakers have slammed the challenge, saying it is part of a half-decade-long assault against women’s rights that included the government’s attempt to ban abortions outright in 2016.
That initiative was abandoned by Law and Justice after Polish women took to the streets in protests.
More than 95 percent of legal abortions in the EU’s largest eastern member are performed due to damaged fetuses, according to the Nationwide Women Strike group, which organized the protest.
This means that the ruling effectively eliminates abortions in the country, forcing women who want to terminate pregnancies to go abroad.
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