Polish MPs pave way for bill to ban abortion

Warsaw protest against proposed abortion ban, 3 Apr 16 Image copyright EPA
Image caption On 3 April there was a Warsaw rally against criminalising abortion

Polish MPs have paved the way for a citizens' bill that would ban abortion.

The "Stop Abortion" campaign now has approval to collect the 100,000 signatures needed to submit a bill to MPs. It has three months to do so.

The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has a parliamentary majority and promotes traditional Catholic values.

Currently abortions are only allowed in Poland in cases of rape or incest, if the mother's life is in danger, or if the foetus has medical problems.

PiS enjoys the support of many Polish Catholic bishops, and its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, believes most of his party would vote for the bill.

According to the Polish Health Ministry, there were 977 legal abortions in 2014. Before the fall of communism in 1989 abortion was legal.

The citizens' bill proposes up to five years in prison for anyone who knowingly causes the death of an unborn child.

It stipulates that punishment for doctors and mothers can be waived in some cases, such as when the procedure was performed to save the mother's life.

The current law was adopted in 1993 after a very heated debate in parliament and the compromise has largely held since.

With PiS in office there may be room for change, such as tightening the law to outlaw abortions when the foetus has medical complications.

A recent opinion poll by CBOS suggests Poles are becoming less liberal on the issue. In 1992, 88% approved of abortions when the mother's life was threatened. By 2016, it had fallen to 80%. In cases of rape/incest approval fell from 80% to 73%, whereas in cases where the child would be born handicapped, it fell from 71% to 53%.

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