By Claire Zillman
March 14, 2017

Last fall, tens of thousands of women, dressed in black and clutching umbrellas, filled the streets of Warsaw, Poland. Women turned out in smaller cities and towns across the country, too. They were protesting against a proposed change to the nation’s already strict abortion law, one that would essentially outlaw the procedure altogether and threaten mothers and doctors who pursued and performed abortions with jail time.

After the extraordinary outpouring of opposition—an estimated 6 million people protested in all—Poland’s ruling right-wing party distanced itself from the bill and the measure was defeated two days later.

The demonstrations were deemed a success. “Poland’s parliament rejects near-total ban on abortion after protests,” the Guardian declared at the time. Last week, stories about the American “Day Without Women” cited the Polish demonstrations as examples of the power of a pointed protest. But the current mood among progressive women in Poland is anything but celebratory.

In a new exposé, Buzzfeed details the enormous scope of feminists’ on-going fight. Here’s a taste of what women there are up against:

There’s another version of the abortion ban wending through Parliament in a less direct fashion, and there’s moves to ban hormonal contraception, which is what most Polish women use. [The ruling, right-wing party] PiS has introduced a bill to make emergency contraception prescription-only, which would essentially make it inaccessible. And conservatives remain committed to ending in vitro fertilization. Marta Szostak, who coordinates a reproductive rights alliance called ASTRA, sums it up simply: “They’re really concerned about all the issues connected to women’s vaginas.”

Poland’s attack on women’s rights is not limited to reproductive health. Two days after assuming control of the government, PiS’s justice ministry slashed funding to nonprofits that aid domestic violence victims because it considers such organizations discriminatory against men.

Poland’s liberal base remains energized by the success of the fall protests, in much the way some American women continue to draw strength from the momentum of the (albeit less targeted) Women’s March on Washington. Now, Poland’s feminists are done begging for reprieve against “draconian laws,” Krystyna Kacpura, director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, told Buzzfeed. Rather, they’re working to get their own people elected in the first place—an approach their American counterparts are starting to replicate.





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