Protests Erupting over Poland’s Abortion Ruling

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Protests in Poland are spreading: in Poznan, Warsaw, Wroclaw and Krakow, among other cities. Thousands of women are protesting against Poland's new abortion laws in cities across the country.

A court ruling on Thursday banned almost all abortions with exceptions only for cases of rape, incest, or where the mother's health is at risk.

Abortions carried out when the foetus is malformed, which accounted for 98% of legal terminations last year, have now been outlawed.

Poland already had some of the EU's strictest abortion laws.

Fewer than 2,000 legal terminations are carried out each year. But women's groups estimate that up to 200,000 abortions are either performed illegally, or abroad.

It marked the second night of protests in the country, where strict measures against coronavirus ban gatherings of more than 10 people in most major cities.

A demonstrator wearing a mask takes part in protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, Poland, 23 October, 2020.

In the early hours of Friday morning, protesters clashed with riot police outside the Warsaw home of Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who heads the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party. Police said officers used pepper spray and physical force when some protesters threw stones and tried to push through the cordon around the house.

Protesters gathered near his home again on Friday night, carrying signs with messages such as "This is war" and "You have blood on your hands".

Police in riot gear blocked them from reaching the house. Some urged protesters through loudspeakers to obey restrictions on public gatherings, Reuters news agency reports.

Elsewhere in the country, demonstrators gathered in main squares, near churches and outside PiS buildings.

Magda, a 34-year-old protester in the northern city of Gdynia, told TVN: "Women are not respected in this country. No-one is listening to us."

"It's a disgrace from the Polish state towards half of the population, women. We'll never forget it," Krystyna Kacpura, head of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, told AFP news agency.

The ruling on Thursday was delivered by the Polish constitutional court. It said legislation allowing for the abortion of malformed foetuses was "incompatible" with the constitution.

It came after a legal challenge was launched by MPs from the governing nationalist PiS last year.

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