Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Wednesday his government will propose legislation to liberalise a near-total abortion ban and ease restrictions on the morning-after pill, which would dramatically reverse the previous administration’s policies.
Both bills face an uphill battle. It is unclear if they will garner enough support to pass in parliament. Even if they do, the laws could still be vetoed by the conservative president allied with right-wing populists.
Poland saw a rollback of women’s reproductive rights during the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party’s eight-year rule, targeting access to abortion as well as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and emergency contraception.
A pro-European Union coalition took power from the PiS in an election in October on pledges to liberalise abortion laws in a country where the issue has sparked mass protests.
“We are ready to submit a bill to the parliament in the coming hours on legal and safe abortion up to the 12th week,” Tusk told reporters.
Two of the three political groups in his coalition—the Left, and the Civic Coalition led by Tusk, a former European Council president—have abortion liberalisation in their programmes.
But the third coalition member, the centrist Third Way, has not officially expressed its views on the topic and its lawmakers are not certain to back the legislation.
There is no date for parliament to vote on both proposals.
The move by Tusk’s government would make it four bills aiming to liberalise terminating pregnancies in the parliament following two proposals tabled by the Left party in November. The previous two are still stuck in parliament.
If passed, the legislation would be a major rebuff for the last right-wing government’s policies.
Abortion in the majority-Catholic country is currently legal only if pregnancy results from sexual assault or incest, or threatens the life or health of the mother.
However tens of thousands of women terminate pregnancies at home—using banned abortion pills—or by going abroad, according to women’s rights groups.
Tusk earlier on Wednesday announced plans to also ease restrictions on the “morning-after” pill.
“The issue has been finalised, the draft law will be sent to parliament,” he said, adding that the proposal aims to provide free access to the pill from the age of 15.
“A great moment for all of us! We are giving women back the right to decide about themselves,” the health ministry said on social media following Tusk’s announcement.
With abortion assistance outlawed in Poland, activists and doctors who help with the procedure risk jail.
In March 2023, activist Justyna Wydrzynska was found guilty of supplying a pregnant woman with abortion pills in the first such case. She was sentenced to community service.
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