Poland's Radical Pro-Life Group Wants To Force Rape Victims To Give Birth

They call themselves 'life defenders' and, as Catholics, they believe that life begins at conception. From the moment the man and woman's cells connect, the unborn child has to be protected at all cost, even if that threatens the health or life of its mother.

They plaster huge, graphic images of well developed, blood covered fetuses -- allegedly victims of late abortions -- on cities' walls and online. Some of the posters read: 'This is what feminists want', others: 'Murdering the weak'.

Young boys march in anti-abortion protests wearing their scout caps and carrying national flags on their shoulders. Religious media condemn abortion even more fervently than the Church.

All of this doesn't happen in a country with extremely liberal abortion laws. It happens Poland where, in accordance with a bill passed in 1993, a pregnancy can only be terminated in case severe fetal abnormalities, a threat to the mother's life or health, or if it is a result of rape. Under no circumstances an abortion can be performed beyond the 12th week. A nationwide, annual average of legally performed procedures crawls below 1,000.

Yet for the life defenders this isn't enough. To enforce an unconditional abortion ban, a new bill was devised by a radical Pro Life organisation. The draft entails up to five years of imprisonment for doctors who perform abortions and up to three years for 'unwillingly causing the death of an unborn child'. As pointed out in a viral Facebook post, a miscarriage could be potentially treated and penalised on par with manslaughter.

The proposal has been put forward to Parliament and it will be discussed as soon as a specially formed legislative committee gathers the signatures required to push the bill through to its first reading.

By law, 100,000 members of the public are required to back the proposal within three months. It may sound like many but in 2013 one of Pro Life's anti-abortion campaigns was backed by 1.5 million people.

It's not the first time that fanatic ideas have made it to Warsaw's parliament, but it's the first time that they will be discussed in a setup dominated by right-wing, ultra-Catholic deputies.

Since the Law and Justice party (PiS) swept the board in parliamentary elections last October, nationalist conservatism, conspiracy theories regarding the death of the former president (the twin brother of the current party leader), Euro-scepticism and hardline Catholic propaganda took the upper hand.

Grassroots civil opposition became a blessing in disguise. The newly-created Committee for the Defence of Democracy organises nationwide protests against the government. While the national, PiS dominated media remain silent, private outlets show rivers of smiling people chanting anti-PiS slogans. A political conscience of direct democracy awakens in a country where not so long ago, under the Communist rule, nobody believed in the possibility of change.

Most groundbreakingly, gathering to protest against the anti-abortion law, feminists gained national visibility not as 'rabid loudmouths', as they're most often seen and portrayed, but as defenders of humanist values.


It's a huge step in a country where feminism is still largely misunderstood. It's identified with hatred towards men, the last resort of frustrated women who can't find husbands. Most of the country fears 'gender', a word used almost interchangeably with 'feminism', more than anything else.

Elderly ladies blame it for all of the younger generation's shortcomings. Young men, struggling to make ends meet in the still somewhat immature economy, blame it for troubles with girlfriends. Young girls fear that it will rob them of high heels and makeup. Parents blame it for the homosexuality of their children. The Church blames it for the demise of a traditional family and the life defenders blame it for blood covered fetuses.

However, in response to the Pro Life's anti-abortion project, thousands came out on the streets not only to demand a woman's right to choice, but also to express their discontent at the Church's influence on politics. As the most cruel tool an illegal abortion can be performed with, a metal coat hanger became the symbol of their outrage.

Although Prime Minister Szydlo has publicly expressed her support for the anti-abortion law, some sources claim that PiS isn't entirely content with the proposal.

Party leader Jarosław Kaczyński allegedly met a high Church representative and urged him to get the anti-abortionists to slow down their pace. He warned that it was too early for the debate which could get out of hand and bring a premature end to PM Szydlo's government.

However, for now PiS and 'life defenders' are well on their way to pushing Poland back into a patriarchal past when women were merely childbearing vessels. Those wanting to decide about their bodies will be left with a cruel choice: a coat hanger procedure in Poland or, increasingly popular, abortion tourism.