Abortion rights protests block city streets across Poland

By Joanna Plucinska and Anna Koper WARSAW (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Poles blocked city streets in cars, on bicycles and on foot on Monday on the fifth day of protests against a Constitutional Court ruling that amounts to a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Catholic country. Carrying banners reading 'Enough', 'I won't be your martyr' and 'I want choice, not terror', protesters gathered in several dozen towns and cities in defiance of coronavirus restrictions. 'I will be here until the end,' said Piotr Wybanski, 31, in one of Warsaw's main thoroughfares.

Reuters October 28, 2020 00:10:34 IST
Abortion rights protests block city streets across Poland

Abortion rights protests block city streets across Poland

By Joanna Plucinska and Anna Koper

WARSAW (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Poles blocked city streets in cars, on bicycles and on foot on Monday on the fifth day of protests against a Constitutional Court ruling that amounts to a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Catholic country.

Carrying banners reading "Enough", "I won't be your martyr" and "I want choice, not terror", protesters gathered in several dozen towns and cities in defiance of coronavirus restrictions.

"I will be here until the end," said Piotr Wybanski, 31, in one of Warsaw's main thoroughfares. Speaking of his five sisters, mother and grandmother he said: "I came here with my fiancee and I fight for all of them."

"I need to fight for the future of my daughter," said Justyna, 37, who declined to give her family name.

Scuffles erupted between protesters and far-right groups who broke through a police cordon separating them in front a church elsewhere in Warsaw, prompting the police to use pepper spray. In the city of Wroclaw, abortion rights activists used flares.

The court ruling last Thursday fuelled an unprecedented backlash against the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, which is seen as having close links with the conservative nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government.

It has also heightened criticism of PiS, which came to power five years ago on a promise to instil more traditional values.

Crowds gathered again near the house of PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in an affluent Warsaw neighbourhood, as police in vans with flashing lights kept them away and a helicopter hovered overhead.

After the ruling goes into effect, abortion will be banned in the case of foetal abnormalities and will be legal only in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the woman's health.

Critics say the court has acted on behalf of the party, which has in the past stepped back from efforts to tighten abortion rules. PiS denies that.

The Constitutional Court was part of the government's sweeping overhaul of the justice system which the European Commission says subverted the rule of law by politicising courts. The government says the court is independent.

MILITARY POLICE

In the capital and elsewhere, groups formed around church buildings, with local media reporting far-right groups were gathering to protect them. Late in the evening, flares were launched close to the PiS headquarters in central Warsaw.

The government has called for a halt to the protests because of a rising number of coronavirus cases overwhelming the health care system, though except for isolated scuffles with the police the protests have been largely peaceful.

"What's happening in recent days is absolutely unacceptable," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's chief of staff, Michal Dworczyk, told private radio RMF. "Pandemic rules are being broken."

The government said military police would be called in to help enforce pandemic rules, which include an obligation to wear face masks in public, from Wednesday. The defence ministry said on Twitter the decision was not connected with the protests.

Poland recorded 10,241 new coronavirus cases on Monday, compared with a record of 13,632 on Friday.

More protests are planned across Poland later this week, including a mass gathering in Warsaw on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Agnieszka Barteczko and Jakub Stezycki; Writing by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Holmes)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.