Protesters marching against the draconian new abortion law in Poland were sprayed with pepper spray as they clashed with riot police.
Dramatic footage reveals the tension in Warsaw as protesters marched outraged over an attempt to ban abortion due to fetal defects.
Protesters can be heard screaming as police sprayed the irritant on their faces after Poland removed one of the remaining legal grounds for terminating the pregnancy.
After the ruling comes into force, an abortion is only permitted in the event of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health or life.
Such cases only account for around 2% of the layoffs in recent years.
The Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that it is unconstitutional to end the life of a deformed fetus.
The move has been criticized as a blow to women’s rights in the mostly Catholic country as proponents warn that it will usher in a flurry of poverty and childbirth deaths.
Crowds resisted coronavirus lockdowns to protest from Warsaw to Krakow, Lodz and Szczecin.
Warsaw police said on Twitter that they responded with pepper spray and physical violence after protesters threw stones and tried to push
through the police line.
Hundreds of protesters marched to the house of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Thursday evening after the verdict in the city.
Some carried candles and signs reading “Torture”.
Others were decked out in Handmaid’s Tale costumes, in reference to the women who were forced to bear children.]Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and hit drama series of the same name.
The scarlet costumes worn by the characters in fictional Gilead have become a global symbol of protest for women’s right to take control of their own bodies.
Abortion rights activists say access to the procedure has been denied many times in Poland in recent years, even if it is legal.
Many doctors in Poland, who already had some of the strictest abortion rules in Europe, are exercising their legal right to refuse to terminate pregnancies on religious grounds.
A group of right-wing lawmakers called on the tribunal in December to rule on the legality of abortion if there was serious irreversible harm to the fetus.
The development is pushing Poland further away from the European mainstream, as it is the only EU country besides Malta that severely restricts access to abortion.
Maria Kurowska, a lawmaker at United Poland, a party in the ruling coalition with Law and Justice, said: “We are pleased with what the Constitutional Court ruled because you can’t kill a child for illness. This is not a fetus, it is a child. “
Women’s rights and opposition groups reacted with dismay to the verdict.
It is estimated that around 100,000 women apply for dismissal abroad every year in order to circumvent the tightened abortion restrictions in Poland, reports the BBC.
“The worst scenario that could come true has come true. It is a devastating phrase that will destroy the lives of many women and many families,” Kamila Ferenc, an attorney for an NGO that helps women refuse abortion, told the news from Reuters Agency.
“It will force especially the poor to have children against their will.
“Either they have no chance of survival, or they have no chance of an independent existence, or they will die shortly after birth.”
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic wrote on Twitter about the court’s decision: “The removal of the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland is a ban and violates human rights.”