Our bodies, our choices: The fight no one is talking about
Illustration by Bethan Chinn

TW: Abortion, mentions of sexual violence

Living in the 21st century, anyone would think that the world is developing and making huge progress. In Poland though it seems as if we are moving back in time, and it’s not okay. Now is the time to speak up about it.
Abortion rights have been a huge topic not only in Europe but all over the world, affecting thousands of women each year. After many movements, court hearings, protests and lives lost, we have finally come to the point where abortion is legal in almost every country in Europe and every state in the US. But when it comes to Poland, it seems as if the government is stuck in time.

This now independent country has fought a lot of fights over its history, most of them being against other nations, but the unethical battle going on right now is against Poland’s own civilians. Almost every ten years the restrictions and requirements to obtain an abortion have changed. In 1993, the law made it so that for someone to experience “difficult living conditions” was not reason enough for a termination. Poles can only get an abortion for one of three reasons today. One: “a woman’s life or health must be in danger due to the pregnancy”. Two: “if the pregnancy resulted because of a criminal act such as rape or incest”. Three: “if there is a high chance of the foetus experiencing severe and irreversible impairment”. Now, vocal pro-life groups are attempting to ensure that an abortion is illegal no matter the circumstances.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the current male President Andrzej Duda decided that it would be a good time to show his support for the current “Stop Abortion” bill, first introduced by pro-life activist Kaja Godek. A woman who had a choice in giving birth to a child is now advocating for the elimination of all women’s options around Poland. One woman is thought to be speaking for the 51.53% of the population and assumes that it is the right choice for everyone.

We have a voice in what we want. Over the many years fellow Poles have developed symbols and signs to make sure they are seen and known. In 2016 when the bill to ban abortion was debated, the left-wing political party formed a campaign called the “Czarny Protest”, or “Black Protest”. This campaign played a huge part on social media, where women would post pictures in black clothing to support this campaign. Some protested outside the Sejm (the lower house of the Polish parliament). Another symbol that has surfaced recently has been the red lightning bolt. It’s seen everywhere on social media, demonstrating support for halting the “Stop Abortion” bill and most importantly preventing Kaja Godek from deciding what we do with our bodies.

The “Stop Abortion” bill isn’t the only thing that left the country outraged. A “Stop Paedophilia” bill has also been bought up. This bill would state that anyone who is portraying, spreading, teaching or approving information about sexual intercourse, sexual activity and sexuality to a minor, is liable for imprisonment up to three years. A teacher who is educating their student could face up to three years of prison for sharing their knowledge and teaching the students the importance of safe sex. Polish law also states that “if a perpetrator commits the rape against a minor under 15 years of age, they shall be subjected to the penalty for a minimum term of 3 years”. A teacher could get the same sentence as someone who has raped a minor.

The government has decided that now- in the middle of a pandemic- is the best time to show support for these horrendous bills. But we as a society know that isn’t going to stop us. Since the bill has been given attention again, hundreds of Poles have been protesting on the streets of Poland in their cars and on their bikes. With red lighting bolts plastered on their faces, cars, bikes and signs, they have decided they won’t be silenced again and will continue fighting this to stop it once and for all.

Making abortion illegal wont eradicate it, but it will make it more dangerous. It will take more life out of this world than it will bring to it. We are fighting battles that won’t be mentioned in our grandchildren’s history books, but these are the battles that will affect their future. Why now? During this time, we are looking out for our families and keeping to ourselves and therefore the Government thinks it can keep us quiet. We will not be silenced. Our bodies, our choices.