The Polish government narrowly rejected a bill this week that would have banned abortions in the cases of pregnancies caused by rape or ones that put the mother's health at risk. However, proponents of the blanket abortion ban bill are encouraged by its popularity.
The proposal, “On the Protection of Human Life from the Moment of Conception,” had a great deal of support. According to LifeSiteNews.com, the bill needed 100,000 signatures within three months to get voted on in parliament and got 600,000 in two weeks.
The bill, however, failed to be passed, receiving a 191-186 vote. Five voters abstained from voting and 78 were not present.
Despite the bill's failure to be passed, supporters believe that the immense popularity of the bill sent a clear message to the Polish government and its people, reports Pro Europa Cristiania.
“This is only the beginning of Polish people involvement in the reconstruction of this fundamental moral issue in public life,” said Mariusz Dzierzawski, leader of the Citizen Legislative Committee, a faction of the PRO–Right to Life Foundation, a Polish organization.
“Sound morality is the solid foundation of every community,” Dzierzawski added. “If we are allowed to kill children, what will prevent us from killing each other? That is why we say: No, you cannot kill a child. A state which allows it is not a good state.”
Human Rights Watch, which issued a press release opposing the ban, said that Poland’s current abortion laws, already among the strictest in the European Union, force many women to go underground for their abortions.
In 2009, records show 538 legal abortions. However, studies show that the actual number of abortions ranged between 40,000 and 200,000.
“A blanket ban on abortion is an irresponsible move and will force women who need access to abortion to put their lives and health at risk,” said Gauri van Gulik, women’s rights advocate at HRW. “Poland’s restrictive laws should be liberalized, not made even more Draconian.”
And reports by the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning and the International Women’s Health Coalition have also shown that the current restrictive reproductive laws mostly affect poor, rural, refugee, and young women, who are unable to get the services they need.
“Poor women, women in rural areas, and refugees already bear the brunt of Poland’s restrictive legislation on abortion,” van Gulik said. ”The Polish parliament [was] playing with their lives.”
Supporters of the abortion ban see the narrow defeat as a chance to reignite the abortion debate in a part of the world where abortion has been nearly universally legalized – Malta is the only European nation with a ban and Ireland has restrictions similar to Poland.
Tomasz Terlikowski, a pro-life commentator and newspaper editor, said the abortion ban effort was "a huge success" despite its defeat in Parliament.
“Success is the introduction to public debate, unthinkable in other European countries, of a total ban on abortion,” he told LifeSiteNews.com.
“The defenders of life in Poland, among whom I count myself, certainly will not rest," said Terlikowski. "In the next Parliament we will re-submit the bill banning all abortions.”