Polish parliament takes step toward liberalising abortion laws

  • World
  • Friday, 12 Apr 2024

FILE PHOTO: Polish Minister for Equality Katarzyna Kotula speaks during a debate on liberalizing access to abortion at the Polish parliament, in Warsaw, Poland April 11, 2024. Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Wyborcza.pl via REUTERS/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's parliament sent four bills on liberalising abortion laws to a special bipartisan committee for consideration, voting results showed, a sign of cooperation between ruling coalition parties despite deep divisions over the matter.

"We promised to stop bickering and we kept our word ... We did it out of respect for democracy and concern for the durability of the coalition. Now we leave the fate of these bills in the hands of the committee members," parliament speaker Szymon Holownia wrote on X after Friday's vote.

Women's rights are high on the agenda in Poland, which under the previous nationalist government introduced a near-total ban on abortion in 2021, embedding conservative social values in law during its eight-year rule.

Since winning election in October, Prime Minister Donald Tusk's broad coalition encompassing the moderate left and right has reinstated public funding for in-vitro fertilisation and voted to change rules on access to emergency contraception.

However, the issue of abortion remains divisive, resulting in the three coalition parties presenting four bills on the matter: two allowing terminations without restrictions until 12 weeks of pregnancy and one de-penalising the procedure.

The fourth bill, proposed by Holownia's Christian democratic Third Way party, reinstates the right to abortion in cases of foetal abnormalities, returning to the situation before a 2020 constitutional court ruling banned such procedures.

Under existing law, abortion is legal only in the case of rape, incest or a danger to the woman's health or life.

The four bills will now be debated by the special parliamentary commission. It is not clear how long the work may take, but some lawmakers have suggested it could be until a new president is elected next year.

It is widely expected that current President Andrzej Duda, a conservative ally of the former ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, would veto any changes to abortion legislation.

(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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