Poland’s ruling party has delayed the progress of a Bill that will protect unborn babies from discriminatory disability-selective abortion.
Unlike most of Europe, Poland protects unborn babies from abortion in most circumstances. Terminations are only permissible after rape or incest, if the mother’s life is at risk, or in cases of foetal abnormality – including Down’s syndrome.
Yesterday the country’s parliament had a choice of rejecting the bill, sending it to a parliamentary committee or fast-tracking it to a second reading.
177 members of Poland’s Law and Justice Party voted against progressing the Bill to a Second Reading, while only 52 voted in favour.
A vote to completely reject the Bill was defeated with just 187 in favour, 254 against, and 10 abstentions. It means the Bill will now be sent to a parliamentary committee for further work.
In the past, this has been a way to let legislation quietly die.
However, that could be difficult as the proposed legislation comes from a Citizens’ Initiative which received support from over 830,000 Polish residents indicating strong public support for a change in law.
Additionally, polling within the country has revealed there is strong support for pro-life measures in the country. A CBOS poll found that 75% of Polish people think abortion is “always wrong and can never be justified”. Meanwhile, only 7% thought there was “nothing wrong with it and could always be justified”.
However, it is unclear how much support the ruling Law and Justice party will give the Bill despite it being submitted by one of their own MPs, Elzbieta Witek.
Though the bill has strong support from the public, pro-life campaigners are wary that pressure from abortion activist groups pushing back aggressively to keep eugenic disability-selective abortions legal could see the Law and Justice party withdraw their support yet again.
The majority of protests against the Bill have come from international pro-abortion pressure groups.
Amnesty International’s Poland director, Draginja Nadazdin, said in a statement: “We will continue to watch the authorities’ every move to ensure that these regressive bills do not proceed any further when they inevitably resurface.”
In 2016, the Law and Justice party initially supported a similar Citizens’ Initiative but then withdrew its support following such pressure.
A pro-abortion petition against the bill has signatures from 170 MPs, MEPs and senators from 24 European countries. However, only nine of the signatories are lawmakers from Poland.President Andrzej Duda, a Law and Justice Party ally, has indicated he will sign the Bill into law telling Polish publication Niedziela in a recent interview: “I believe that killing children with disabilities is simply murder. If a project opposing this issue will find itself on my desk, I will certainly sign it.”