“Women’s bodies are attacked.” This was one of the many messages delivered during the plenary debate on abortion law in Poland on Wednesday afternoon.
Many MEPs wearing T-shirts with slogans such as “Strajk Kobiet” (“Women’s Strike”) voiced their anger at the Polish Constitutional Court ruling in late October that legislation allowing women to seek an abortion for severe fetal impairment , “Incompatible” with the Constitution.
In Poland there is only access to an abortion in the event of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life.
The European Commissioner for Gender Equality, Helena Dalli, opened the debate: “Quality sexual and reproductive health services are essential for women and girls. This includes access to contraception, prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, fertility and gender-specific cancers, and access to abortion. “
“From a legal point of view, it is clear that the EU has no jurisdiction over the right to abortion within a Member State. Legislation in this area is the responsibility of the Member State concerned. I will state objectively that the recent decision of the Polish Constitutional Court has restricted the Polish abortion law. “
“In the weeks following the decision of the Polish Constitutional Court, we saw how many Polish citizens took to the streets; Civil society, women and men protested in Poland. And I hope with all my heart that these voices will be heard and heard. Strong women’s rights are an asset and an achievement that all of Europe must be proud of. But progress is hard-won and easily lost, and we see that in Europe and around the world. “
“The Polish government has done everything in its power in the last few months to deprive women of the right to self-determination and to deprive them of the power to make decisions about their own bodies.” Evelyn Regner, Chair of the Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
The next floor was Irish EPP MP Frances Fitzgerald who said Poland was under attack. “It is under attack from within, by a government and a political party, and by a belief that disregards fundamental values, including the rule of law and women’s rights.”
“Let’s remember all over the world: women’s rights are human rights. A party that tries to sabotage the very institutions that built a democratic Poland, that wanted to uphold the guiding principles after the fall of communism, where the solidarity movement once took to the streets amid a tidal wave of support for fundamental values, now a pathetic one Government crouches behind Mr Kaczyński as he tries to destroy the very essence of democracy – human rights – and the rule of law. “
The Spanish S&D group leader Iratxe García Pérez said it was “totally unacceptable” that in the 21st
“This is a situation of injustice and Parliament has to stand up and say no, as happens on the streets of Poland where hundreds of thousands of women stand up and demand that their rights be respected. It is absolutely unacceptable that a constitutional court controlled by Mr. Kaczyński’s government wants to attack one of the fundamental rights of women – to decide over our own bodies whether we have children or not. “
She added: “We cannot allow our daughters to have fewer rights than their mothers, and that is exactly what is happening in Poland right now.”
Evelyn Regner, Chair of Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, began her speech by addressing women’s rights protesters directly in Poland and beyond: “Your actions are important. Not only in Poland, in all of Europe, and therefore a big thank you. “
“We cannot allow our daughters to have fewer rights than their mothers, and that is exactly what is happening in Poland at the moment”
Iratxe García Pérez, leader of the S&D Group
“In the last few months the Polish government has done everything in its power to deprive women of their right to self-determination and to deprive them of the power to make decisions about their own bodies. However, women must be able to decide for themselves whether they want to terminate a pregnancy or not. The so-called ‘Constitutional Court’ attacks the rights of women across Europe in its decision. “
“This ban will only result in more women putting themselves at risk through clandestine abortions.”
Renew Europe’s Danish representative, Karen Melchior, said: “To achieve equality, we must have the right to rule over our own bodies. The right to abortion is just a requirement for equality. Equality is a European value enshrined in the Treaty and the right to abortion should not be a political struggle; it is a right. “
“The Polish government has turned this into an ideological struggle; over the past five years they have left behind the values that unite us in Europe. The rule of law is under attack and the bodies of women are attacked. The right to abortion is slowly being stolen from Polish women. “
Melchior concluded with the words: “I am not free in Denmark until all women in Poland are free because we must all be free in Europe.”
Swedish GUE / NGL MP Malin Björk said the attack on the right to abortion was “one of the most brutal ways to control our lives and to control and install patriarchal values in society”.
“Strong women’s rights are an asset and an achievement that all of Europe must be proud of. But progress is hard-won and easily lost, and we see that in Europe and around the world. “
Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Gender Equality
“It is also part of the overall picture of these right-wing conservative parties to govern more and more authoritarian. They want to control the courts, the media, civil society, and we have to say: stop. The lives of women are at stake here. “
The Greens MP Terry Reintke said that nothing that is happening in Poland should come as a surprise: “Fundamentalists and authoritarians are taking political control of the judiciary, and what do they do first? They are taking away the rights of women, LGBTIs and others. “
Polish S&D MP Robert Biedroń told the story of a young Polish woman who was raped and tried to terminate her pregnancy. She went from one doctor to another, but no one was willing to perform the abortion.
“So she was forced into what we call the ‘abortion underground’ to have a clandestine abortion, with all the risk involved. This is Poland for 2020 – it’s hell for women. “
Renew Europe MEP Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, a surgeon and gynecologist herself, said: “We are debating the right to abortion in Europe in 2020. Because these conservatives, these so-called evangelicals, supposedly defend life, the right to life. “
“Illegal abortion also creates right to life problems, through all sorts of consequences such as bleeding, and can even be fatal for women. The right to abortion is a right that must be respected. Polish women have enough, European women have enough, and so has the European Parliament. “