Thousands of women are expected to go on strike across Poland in protest against a new law that would effectively ban abortion, The Guardian reports.


Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with terminations legally permitted only when the life of the foetus is under threat, when there is a grave threat to the health of the mother, and in the instance that the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.


Were the proposed ban to be enacted, all terminations would be criminalised, with women punishable with up to five years in prison. Doctors found to have assisted with a termination would also be liable for prosecution and a prison term.


Critics say that would mean that even a woman who suffers a miscarriage could be under criminal suspicion, and that doctors might be put off conducting even routine procedures on pregnant women for fear of being accused of facilitating a termination.


Although a ban has received public support from elements of the Catholic church and Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS), neither initiated the proposals. They were drafted by hardline conservative advocacy group Ordo Iuris and submitted by the Stop Abortion coalition as a “citizens’ initiative” – a petition considered by parliament once it has received more than 100,000 signatures.


When on 23 September the Polish parliament voted for Stop Abortion’s proposals to be scrutinised by a parliamentary committee, pro-choice activists responded by calling a nationwide strike, or “national absence campaign”, by women, encouraging them to take a day off work and domestic tasks and gather for meetings or demonstrations, to donate blood or do charity work.


Many Polish women say they are sick of deals being cut over their fundamental reproductive and human rights, which they argue threaten both their safety and their dignity.


“A lot of women and girls in this country have felt that they don’t have any power, that they are not equal, that they don’t have the right to an opinion,” said Magda Staroszczyk, a strike co-ordinator. “This is a chance for us to be seen, and to be heard.”


Monday’s protest was inspired by an all-out strike more than 40 years ago by the women of Iceland, when 90% of women refused to work, cook, or look after their children for a day in October 1975.


Photo: ЕРА

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