Andrzej Dominiczak


Since 1993, Poland has had one of the most stringent anti-abortion laws in Europe, a result of the strong position of Catholicism in this country. But for some groups of more radical Catholics, this strictness is not enough, because the law allows exceptions if a woman's life is in danger or pregnancy occurs because of rape or incest. Two such organizations, Foundation Pro and Ordo Iuris, gathered 450,000 signatures for a new law, which would completely ban abortions. They easily won the support of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Although the initiative was generally supported by the Polish Catholic Church, it was a little too radical even for the Church's bishops, who opposed the imprisonment of women who disobey the anti-abortion law, which was called for by the proposed legislation. So, within the Church, a rift appeared relating to this initiative.

On October 3rd, the world watched as hundreds of thousands of Polish women took part in a national strike and mass protests against the radical draft law, called the "Black Protest". Many women went out into the streets of Polish cities dressed in black. The second stage of the protest tool place just three weeks later, when a coalition of women’s groups organized a demonstration in front of the parliament and numerous other events in the streets of Polish cities. They demanded that politicians and the state keep their hands off their bodies and respect their rights.

Both stages were inspired by a women’s strike, in fact a mass organized free day, in Iceland in 1975. The difference is that the Icelandic campaign was well prepared for ten months and attracted the support of many citizens' organizations, while the second part of the Polish protests, in my opinion, was insufficiently prepared, with insufficient efforts to broaden the engagement of civil society. However, women managed to stop parliamentary work on the new law. The government and the PiS party withdrew their support for it, at least for the time being.

The Catholic Church and a variety of Catholic organizations are still powerful and influential in Polish society and politics. In the current parliament, there is truly speaking no party which is willing to or dares to oppose them. Incredibly, no leftwing party has representation after the last parliamentary election. So, all the more, political forces are lacking to challenge the power of aggressive intrusive Catholicism. Therefore, citizens' organizations, movements and networks are very important. The Black Protest showed that many Poles refuse to accept actions that are intended to prevent Poland from becoming a modern, free, progressive society. Certainly, humanist, atheist, and rationalist organizations in this country have an important role in the effort to promote secularism and protect democratic freedoms in the face of the powerful reactionary forces that are now plaguing Poland.

Towarzystwo Humanistyczne
Humanist Assciation