Polish Toledo

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Sunday, October 08, 2017

Police raid offices of feminist activists after abortion protests

The day after thousands of activists marched against Poland’s restrictive abortion law, police raids at their offices seized documents and computers.

Offices of The Women’s Rights Center and Baba, which helps domestic violence victims,  in the cities of Warsaw, Lodz, Gdansk, and Zielona Gora were targeted by police.

Well Armed Polish Police conducting Raid
Both organizations took part in anti-government protests marking the anniversary of the historic “Black Protest”. The aforementioned demonstration took place a year ago and saw people dressed in black come together to stop a plan in parliament for an almost total ban on abortion.

The activists have accused Polish authorities of attempting to intimidate them and said losing the files will obstruct the work they do.

According to Krystyna Kacpura, the Executive Director at Poland Fed for Women & Family Planning, “They want us to be afraid of possible repression from the government's side. It started with women's NGOs working on violence against women and funded by the government in previous years.”

Krystyna Kacpura

According to the Independent: The organizations claim police informed them prosecutors were hunting for evidence in an investigation into suspected wrongdoing in the Justice Ministry which took place under the former government. The ministry was feeding funding to the women’s groups at the time.

“They reassured us that the investigation concerned Ministry of Justice officers. We don't believe in this information because the raids occurred one day after women protested across Poland,” Kacpura said. 

“We were shocked about the raids. Women's NGOs have nothing to hide but this operation stopped their work. They are not able to continue everyday important work for violated women and children.”

She said women marched in front of the office of the Center for Women's Rights to show that other NGOs are standing in solidarity with them.

Marta Lempart
Marta Lempart, the head of the Polish Women’s Strike, which organized the protests, echoed the views of Kacpura. She told Associated Press: “This is an abuse of power because, even if there is any suspicion of wrongdoing, an inquiry could be done in a way that doesn’t affect the organizations’ work”.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “These heavy-handed police tactics amount to harassment of women’s rights organizations. Coming a day after the protests against restrictive abortions laws, they risk silencing the discussion on abortion rights in Poland."

Prosecutors hit back at the accusations levied against them, claiming the fact the raids took place a day after the protests was merely coincidental.

The ruling Law and Justice party is founded on a socially conservative, Catholic ideology and has pursued a restrictive agenda with regards to female reproductive rights. 

For instance, the morning after pill is no longer prescription-free because the minister of health, Konstanty Radziwiłł, raised concerns teenage girls would use it on a daily basis. The same minister also claimed that as a doctor he would not even prescribe the pill to a woman who had been raped, citing the conscience clause in defense.

In Poland abortion is illegal except in cases of rape or when a female’s life is at risk or if the fetus is irreparably damaged. As such, women’s rights activists took to the street to express their frustration at the fact abortion was still illegal in most cases and demand a radical overhaul of the country’s laws.

In October 2016, legislation was proposed to completely outlaw abortion overall. The plans prompted around 30,000 people to assemble in Warsaw’s Castle Square, chanting “We want doctors, not missionaries!”. 

The far-reaching protests were successful and triggered lawmakers to vote against the restrictive new law just three days afterwards. The eastern European country is one of the few countries in the world to outlaw abortion following decades of total legalization.

Now, on the other hand Poland is no longer suffering from one of the EU's lowest birth rates.  

Law and Justice introduced the so called “500+” program. For every second and next child under eighteen years of age a family receives 500 PLN per month. That's about $125 per month. While the Ukrainian migrants totaling around a million helped fill jobs and continued Poland's stellar economic expansion, it was a short stop gap measure. To continue on the path of increasing prosperity for the nation - Poland's fertility rate needs to rise significantly. 

Killing babies in the womb except for the exceptions noted above isn't a particular help to the continued growth of living standards. We don't want Poland to end up like Japan.


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