Standing in solidarity with all women for rights over their bodies, and to prioritize pro-choice abortion laws, organizations Haiyya, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, Love Matters India and Feminism in India strongly condemn the ‘Stop Abortion’ bill discussed in Parliament of Poland amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Parliament of Poland started discussions on ‘Stop Abortion’ bill on Wednesday 15th April stretched till Thursday 16th April. The parliament on Thursday has sent the bill back to the parliamentary committee for further review, but has not rejected the bill completely, and it has the chance of resurfacing.
In the time of COVID-19, where lives are lost and the world is locked down, control over women’s body continues in the midst of a world-wide crisis, whether it is lack of sexual and reproductive health services and access to women in some parts of India, or the draconian abortion law in Poland. As feminist organizations and collectives committed to upholding rights over women’s bodies and choices around it, we strongly condemn the recent abortion law in Poland. We urge all organizations, collectives, individuals all over the world to protest online from home, to become visible to the Poland government that we are watching and such a discriminatory and derogatory law cannot rule over women’s choice over their bodies.
According to Krystyna Kacpura, the Executive Director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning (FEDERA), just 1,055 women obtained a legal abortion in Poland in 2016, while illegal abortions numbered up to 150,000. Illegal abortion continues to be a common practice all over the world owing to the legal limitations and socio-cultural barriers. As per the WHO report, those countries that have completely banned or have permitted abortion only to save the mother’s woman’s life or in order to preserve her physical health, show a rate of 1:4, safely performed the abortion. Whereas, those countries that have legalized abortion on broader grounds, nearly 9 out of 10 abortions were performed safely. Hence, putting restrictions and terms for getting an abortion or not giving legal permissions, does not actually reduce the number of abortions restrict laws don’t slow down the rate of abortion in countries where they have strict laws.
Condemning the bill, Sreejani, Senior Campaigner at Haiyya, a grassroots campaigning non-profit in New Delhi said,
“Last year, a woman in Gorakhpur ended up killing herself aborting her 7 months old fetus. This is only because of stigma, denial or services, and the limitations of our abortion laws! We have been waiting for the MTP bill to be introduced once the COVID situation is under control, that might change the lives of many womxn. All the more, we deserve a life-time apology for the loss of so many lives earlier, we can’t afford to lose anymore!”
The Medical Termination Bill in India which is on hold till the Parliament resumes office, organizations and collectives of women all across India are fighting to change the narrative of abortion law in India. The goal is to make it pro-choice and solely on the basis of the pregnant woman and her doctor’s decision without any discrimination on the basis of marital status, class, caste and gender-sexual identities. “This is a crucial time where we are organizing to change the history of abortion laws all across the world and when we are already in pandemic despair, the Poland abortion law is a direct attack on women’s autonomy over their bodies and a hindrance to moving towards a progressive law. While moving two steps ahead, we are taking four steps back in the quest to keep alive our age-old traditions which might appear full of stigma and a severe blow to women’s rights,” said Sreejani.
Dr. Suchitra Dalvie, Coordinator, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership opines,
“We are seeing a pushback from conservative forces across the globe, using this time to make things worse for the most vulnerable and the most marginalized under the guise of public health priorities. It is a sign of how desperate they are and how far they are willing to go in order to wrestle control over this issues that they are trying to use a global pandemic to drive a wedge into abortion access. Women’s rights activists everywhere stand in solidarity with our sisters in Poland and we hope that they will be able to resist this.”
The Indian government on 14th April ruled that abortion is protected under essential service, however access during lockdown remains a crucial question, said Dr. Dalvie, “Fortunately for us the government in India has been very proactive and supportive on the issue and has included safe abortion within the essential services. The real issue is going to be actual access since women and girls will find it even more difficult to move out of the house and reach clinics or pharmacists in order to get a safe abortion service.”