Poles hold more protests over abortion; activist released

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People protest against new anti-abortion laws near the ruling Law and Justice party headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, after the country's top court confirmed its highly divisive ruling that will further tighten the predominantly Catholic nation's strict anti-abortion law. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – Poles took to the streets of Warsaw, Gdansk and other cities for a third night of protests Friday, after a near-total abortion ban took effect that gives Poland one of the most restrictive laws in Europe.

There were some small scuffles with police, who used tear gas on protesters.

The constitutional court ruled in October to ban abortions in cases of fetal disorders, even severe and fatal ones, and the ruling finally became law on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the protest movement, Klementyna Suchanow, was released from police detention after being arrested the night before for entering the grounds of the constitutional court in Warsaw and nailing a poster to a door. The poster, she said, celebrated the recent liberalization of the abortion law in Argentina and expressed hope Poland would be next.

Suchanow told The Associated Press that she was found guilty in a quick trial of various acts, including trespassing and putting nails in the door, and will have to report to a police station weekly and is also banned from being near the court.

The high court is under the political control of the governing right-wing Law and Justice party, which had faced pressure from an ultra-conservative group to further restrict what had already been one of the European Union’s most restrictive abortion laws. Mass nationwide protests have recurred repeatedly since then, growing into the largest protest movement in post-communist Poland.

The court's judges argued that allowing abortion when there are congenital defects is unconstitutional because the Polish Constitution protects human life.

The only remaining legal justifications for abortion under Polish law are if the woman’s life or health is at risk or if a pregnancy results from rape or incest. To date, about 98% of all legal abortions in the country — of which there were 1,110 in 2019 — were performed on the grounds of fetal malformations.