Two-child benefit cap influencing women’s decisions on abortion, says BPAS

The controversial “two-child limit” restricting the amount that larger families can receive in social security benefits was a key factor in many women’s decisions to terminate their pregnancy during the pandemic, according to a leading abortion charity.



a woman walking down a street: Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said over half of the women it surveyed who had an abortion during the pandemic, and who were aware of the two-child limit and likely to be affected by it, said the policy was “important in their decision-making around whether or not to continue the pregnancy.”

Some women told BPAS that the combination of economic and job insecurity triggered by pandemic and the two-child limit effectively removed their choice over the pregnancy, persuading them to end a pregnancy they would in a less fraught financial situation have wanted to keep.

“The two-child cap forces people into a corner of knowing they can’t provide versus abortion,” one mother said. “Although I understand it is not the government’s responsibility to be financially responsible for parents having children, I also felt that thanks to this rule I was forced to make this decision.”

Another mother told BPAS: “If there was no two-child limit, I would have kept the baby, but I couldn’t afford to feed and clothe it … I’ve really struggled to come to terms with my decision.”

The limit, which was introduced as way of cutting £1bn a year from the welfare bill, bars parents from claiming the child element in tax credits or universal credit for third or subsequent children born after 6 April 2017. The loss of benefits is worth £2,900 per child per year.

BPAS said even prior to the pandemic there was evidence that the two-child policy was affecting pregnancy rates. There had been a disproportionately large increase in abortions by mothers with two or more existing children between 2016 and 2019 – 16.4%, compared with 10.3% and 7% respectively for women with no or one child.

According to official statistics, 243,000 families had been affected by the two-child limit in the three years to April 2020. Some 900 women over the period were allowed official exemption from the cap after being forced to formally disclose that their child was conceived as a result of rape.

BPAS called for the two-child limit to be scrapped. “If the government does not want to see more women feeling forced into a corner between financial hardship or ending an otherwise wanted pregnancy, they must revoke the two-child limit as a matter of urgency,” said Katherine O’Brien, BPAS associate director of campaigns.

“The two-child limit is a cruel and unnecessary policy which expects families to make impossible choices. The limit now affects over 1 million children and is rapidly driving up child poverty. In the midst of a pandemic and jobs crisis, it is particularly callous to continue to pursue this punitive policy,” said Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow social security secretary.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We know this is

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Rage and hope fuel women’s revolt over abortion in Poland

Rage and hope fuel women’s revolt over abortion in Poland

By VANESSA GERA

December 2, 2020 GMT

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Karolina Micula had used her bare chest in political protest once before.

When Poland’s right-wing government first tried to restrict abortion rights, the actress and singer delivered an intense performance onstage in Wroclaw in 2017 that included her spreading paint in the national colors — white and red — onto her breasts and face, ending with a fist raised high.

When the authorities tried again to impose a near-total ban on abortion in October this year, Micula, along with a friend, again stripped to her waist and stood on top of a car at a busy Warsaw intersection during a protest, holding a flare high and giving the middle finger.

“A woman’s body is a place of political battle,” the 32-year-old said from her Warsaw apartment in an interview. “My gesture meant that I will do with my body whatever I want to do with it. If I want to stand naked in front of people, I will do it, because it’s my choice.”

Full Coverage: Photography

Micula’s friend had just come from physiotherapy following a double mastectomy and wanted to encourage other protesters by showing her tattooed chest. Theirs is among many taboo-breaking acts by furious women in Poland in the past weeks.

The upheaval began when Poland’s constitutional court, packed with loyalists of the conservative ruling party, ruled Oct. 22 to ban abortions in cases of congenital fetal defects, even if the fetus has no chance of survival.

Poland already had one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws, and the ruling would mean that the only legal reasons for abortion would be rape, incest or if the woman’s life is in danger.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the ruling party leader and Poland’s most powerful politician, had said he wanted even nonviable fetuses to be carried to birth, so they can be given a baptism, a name and a burial.

The rage of Polish women, and many men as well, erupted onto the streets across the country, growing into the largest protest movement in the three decades since communism fell.

Protesters at first disrupted Masses, shouted obscenities at priests and spray-painted the number of an abortion hotline on church facades. Those early provocative tactics were largely dropped after they triggered a backlash in a society where many cherish Catholic traditions.

They continued their protests on the streets, however, refusing to be cowed by the authorities or by the pandemic.

“My water has broken. I am giving birth to a revolution,” said one sign at a protest in Warsaw on Nov. 18, expressing a view held by an increasing number of protesters.

The interior minister recently warned that the government would not tolerate “a revolution made by force against the constitutional organs of the Polish state.” Police have been increasingly detaining and charging protesters, and in some cases using tear gas and other force.

Still, amid the massive social upheaval,

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Women’s movement sweeps Latin America to loosen abortion restrictions

By Daina Beth Solomon and Cassandra Garrison



a little girl standing in front of a tree: Pro-abortion activist Lupita Ruiz poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City


© Reuters/TOYA SARNO JORDAN
Pro-abortion activist Lupita Ruiz poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY/BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Several weeks pregnant and about to start a job away from home, Lupita Ruiz had no doubts about wanting to end her pregnancy, despite knowing she could face jail time for having an abortion under a law in her state of Chiapas in southern Mexico.    

    She asked friends for help until she found a doctor two hours from her town who agreed to do it in secret.

    Five years later, lawmakers in Chiapas are set to consider an initiative to halt prosecutions of women who terminate their pregnancies, part of a movement sweeping Latin America to loosen some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws.

Several out of more than 20 Latin American nations ban abortion outright, including El Salvador, which has sentenced some women to up to 40 years in prison. Most countries, including Brazil, the region’s most populous, allow abortion only in specific circumstances, such as rape or health risk to the mother.



a person standing in front of a statue with Coit Tower in the background: Pro-abortion activist Lupita Ruiz poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City


© Reuters/TOYA SARNO JORDAN
Pro-abortion activist Lupita Ruiz poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City

Just Uruguay and Cuba allow elective abortions.

In Mexico, a patchwork of state restrictions apply, but the debate is shifting, Ruiz said.

    “When someone talked about abortion, they were shushed,” said the 27-year-old activist, who helped draft the Chiapas initiative. “Now I can sit down to eat a tamale and have a coffee and talk with my mom and my grandma about abortion, without anyone telling me to be quiet.”

Change is palpable across the predominantly Roman Catholic region. A new Argentine president proposed legalization last month, Chilean activists are aiming to write broader reproductive rights into a new constitution, and female lawmakers in Mexico are resisting abortion bans.    

The push can be traced to Argentina’s pro-abortion protests in 2018 by as many as one million women to back a legalization bill that only narrowly failed to pass – in Pope Francis’s home country.



a person standing in front of a brick wall: Pro-abortion activist Lupita Ruiz poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City


© Reuters/TOYA SARNO JORDAN
Pro-abortion activist Lupita Ruiz poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City

Catalina Martinez, director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy organization, said Argentina’s example inspired protests across Latin America.

“It was an awakening,” she said.

Outrage at worsening gender violence in Latin America, where the number of femicides has doubled in five years, has also spread awareness of the abortion rights movement and fueled demands for recognition of women’s rights in a conservative, male-dominated society.

“Women are finally understanding that they are not separate issues,” said Catalina Calderon, director for campaigns and advocacy programs at the Women’s Equality Center. “It’s the fact that you agree that we women are in control of our bodies, our decisions, our lives.”



a young girl holding a flower: Pro-abortion activist Lupita Ruiz poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City


© Reuters/TOYA SARNO JORDAN
Pro-abortion activist Lupita Ruiz poses for a photo

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Women struggle to access abortion as pandemic adds to hurdles in Europe

LISBON (Reuters) – Helplines across Europe have reported higher demand for their services as the coronavirus pandemic adds to the hurdles many women face to access abortion.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holding a placard takes part in a protest against the ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, in Warsaw, Poland, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

While abortion is legal in most of Europe, some women have struggled to get appointments in public health systems overwhelmed by the pandemic. Others could not escape abusive partners because of lockdowns, non-governmental organisations and some women who chose to have an abortion told Reuters.

In countries where abortion is highly restricted, such as Poland, women found themselves unable to travel abroad to terminate an unwanted pregnancy as the pandemic grounded flights and closed borders.

“In some cases it made abortion catastrophically more complicated,” said Mara Clarke, head of the UK-based Abortion Support Network (ASN), which helps women get abortions abroad.

Sending abortion pills by post, a common practice for organisations helping women in places where it is not widely available, became difficult because packages were taking weeks to be delivered.

When she found out she was pregnant in April, mother-of-two Ania, from Warsaw in Poland, said she had experienced two miscarriages and decided it was not the right time to have another baby.

“It was intense … really hard,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the pandemic I would have gone to another country – to Slovakia or the Czech Republic.”

Ania, who declined to give her surname for fear of stigma, eventually managed to terminate her pregnancy with help from Women on Web, an NGO which supports women in her situation.

She is one of thousands of people now protesting in Poland against a court ruling last month that could amount to a near-total ban on abortion in the staunchly Roman Catholic country.

“DANGEROUS”

Abortion Without Borders, a helpline in Poland that launched in December 2019, has received nearly 2,300 calls this year, with a jump in requests for help since a lockdown was announced.

Women in the island-nation of Malta, the only country in Europe where abortion is banned, and where the airport was shut for months due to COVID-19, were the worst hit, Clarke said.

Calls from Malta to an ASN helpline almost doubled, from 44 in 2019 to 83 this year.

In Romania, where abortion is legal within a 14-week limit, some women struggled to access services as the government deemed it a “non-essential procedure” as its healthcare system battled the coronavirus, women’s rights groups said.

Romania-based FILIA said in April only 11% of 112 state hospitals surveyed were providing abortions, and none in the capital Bucharest.

Experts fear restrictions to tackle a second wave of the coronavirus in Europe will create further challenges, especially in countries where healthcare systems are under-resourced.

Marie Stopes International, a non-profit organisation providing contraception and abortion services, has estimated an additional 2.7 million unsafe abortions will take

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Ivanka Trump Is ‘Unapologetically’ Against Women’s Abortion Rights, Says She’s A ‘Pragmatist’

First daughter Ivanka Trump, who serves as an adviser to the president, has revealed that she’s against abortion rights for women and “unapologetically” supports the pro-life movement.



a person talking on a cell phone: Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter, reacts to supporters of her father at the Versailles Restaurant after holding a campaign event for her father on October 27, 2020 in Miami, Florida.


© Joe Raedle/Getty
Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter, reacts to supporters of her father at the Versailles Restaurant after holding a campaign event for her father on October 27, 2020 in Miami, Florida.

In a recent interview with RealClearPolitics, published Thursday, Ivanka Trump said she respects “all sides of a very personal and sensitive discussion” when asked about her stance on the contentious matter.

“But I am also a mother of three children, and parenthood affected me in a profound way in terms of how I think about these things,” she continued. “I am pro-life, and unapologetically so.”

Ivanka Trump also declared that she’s a “Trump-Republican” who considers herself “a pragmatist when it comes to everything.”

The remarks marked the first time the president’s eldest daughter has unequivocally stood against abortion rights.

In 2018, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards released a memoir that accused Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, of offering her what felt like a “bribe” to stop facilitating abortions.

Richards said she met with the White House couple in January 2017, the same month that Donald Trump was inaugurated. During the meeting, Richards said the two asked her to stop providing abortions in exchange for more federal funding.

Later that year, Ivanka Trump endorsed anti-abortion Republican Governor Kim Reynolds and campaigned for her in Iowa. Her support for Reynolds—who signed the strictest U.S. abortion ban in June 2018 before it was challenged in court—led many to believe that she was opposed to abortions.

Ivanka Trump has positioned herself as a champion of women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment throughout her father’s presidency. Last year, she spearheaded a “Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative” that sought to strengthen women in the workforce.

Experts say that women must be allowed the freedom to decide when to have children in order to thrive economically and that some of the Trump administration’s policies have undermined the first daughter’s push to empower women.

Ivanka Trump has been traveling around the country in the final stretch of the presidential race to campaign for her father’s reelection. On Wednesday, she told an audience in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania that U.S. public health leaders are “much more capable” of handling the next waves of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Ivanka Trump made a stop in Wayne County to tout the president’s accomplishments with tax cuts and national security. “In less than 3 years, President Trump has rebuilt the United States military, he has secured America’s borders, he has defeated the ISIS caliphate, he has fostered peace in the Middle East, he has delivered historic tax and regulatory cuts, fixed our broken trade deals and brought jobs back to America and back to Pennsylvania,” she said.

Election Day 2020: Where Trump, Biden Stand In The Polls One Week Before Nov. 3

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Protests in Poland Over Abortion Law Continue for Sixth Day

Tens of thousands of women took to the streets in dozens of Polish cities and towns for a nationwide strike on Wednesday to protest a top court’s decision to ban nearly all abortions, even as the nation’s leading politician urged his conservative supporters to “defend Poland.”

The call by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the deputy prime minister and leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, to fight back against those he cast as “criminals” seeking to “destroy the Polish nation,” threatened to escalate an already tense moment in the deeply divided nation.

“This is the only way we can win this war,” Mr. Kaczynski said, using martial language that critics said served as a call to arms.

His remarks, made in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday and in a video posted Tuesday night to his supporters on Facebook, came as protests stretched into a sixth straight day and drew in the Roman Catholic Church, with demonstrators interrupting Mass, vandalizing church facades and staging sit-ins at cathedrals as they held coat hangars aloft to symbolize dangerous abortions.

One group of women donned long red dresses and white bonnets meant to evoke the subjugated women in the Handmaid’s Tale novel and television series and marched into a cathedral and down the aisle between worshipers.

The women protesting the abortion ruling have been joined by a host of other groups opposed to what they see as the authoritarian drift of the ruling party. The ban on abortion — made by a court ruling that is not subject to appeal — was for many the culmination of a multiyear effort by the ruling party to undermine the rule of law and, step by step, take control of the judicial system.

Twice before, in 2016 and 2018, the ruling party moved in Parliament to impose a ban on abortion. But it backed off both times after nationwide demonstrations underscored the political cost. This time, the ban came through the Constitutional Tribunal, which is firmly controlled by party loyalists.

The widespread outpouring of anger over the past week reflected the pent-up frustration felt by many after watching the steady erosion of institutions meant to safeguard democracy, said Marcin Matczak, a constitutional scholar and law professor at the University of Warsaw.

The court’s decision on abortion, he said, “would not be possible without the previous assault on the rule of law.”

The grievance with the church is also, in many ways, the culmination of watching the critical role many of its leaders have played in the political victories of the Law and Justice party.

On Wednesday, people — overwhelmingly women — poured out from their offices to take part in the work stoppage. They filled the streets in cities like Gdansk, Lodz, Warsaw and Wroclaw, but also in smaller towns like Siemiatycze in eastern Poland, which used to be a stronghold of the Law and Justice party.

In Warsaw, a large crowd — most of them wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus — marched to

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Women begin national strike in Poland after near-total abortion ban

Berlin — Women began striking across Poland on Wednesday in response to a court ruling that imposed a near-total ban on abortions in the country. The ruling made it illegal to terminate a pregnancy in the case of severe fetal health defects.

“We take unpaid leave. We are closing the shops. Or quite simply — we won’t go to work,” a group of women’s rights activists said.

Abortion is only legal in Poland if the pregnancy endangers the life or health of the mother or is the result of rape or incest. Prior to last week’s change in the law, it had also been legal in the case of severe fetal health defects — the most common reason for the procedure in the country.

Poland Abortion
A women’s rights activist with a poster of the Women’s Strike action protests in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 against recent tightening of Poland’s restrictive abortion law. 

Czarek Sokolowski / AP


According to statistics from Poland’s Ministry of Health, of the 1,110 abortions performed in Polish clinics in 2019, 1,074 were because of malformations of the unborn child.

Four years ago, women’s rights activists succeeded in stopping a draft law that would have totally banned abortions in Poland and resulted in prison sentences for women who got them and doctors who performed them. In 2016, around 200,000 women refused to work during a general strike.

This time, however, conditions are different because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I wish I could go out and protest. I am so angry, and people in my town are angry,” one Polish woman, Aleksandra Musil, told CBS News. She is currently isolating at home in the town of Bytom after testing positive for COVID-19.

Musil said people who had never participated in protests were marching in the streets because they were furious with the court’s decision, and that her 14-year-old daughter was participating in the strike.

The government is reportedly surprised by the scale of the backlash to the restrictions.

Meanwhile, Warsaw’s mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said he supported Wednesday’s women’s strike, and that the city administration would allow its employees to participate. He said buses and streetcars would be flagged as a sign of solidarity with the protesters.

Poland Abortion
Women’s rights activists with posters of the Women’s Strike action protest in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 against recent tightening of Poland’s restrictive abortion law. 

Czarek Sokolowski / AP


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Poland abortion ruling sparks ‘women’s strike’

Image caption

Centrist and left-wing MPs held up placards and shouted pro-choice slogans in parliament

A strike is under way in Poland by women opposed to a court ruling that introduced a near-total ban on abortion in the mainly Catholic country.

It is the seventh straight day of demonstrations against the decision that outlawed terminations on the grounds of severe health defects.

Scuffles erupted in parliament on Tuesday with opposition MPs carrying signs saying “This is war” and “Shame”.

The powerful ruling party leader said the decision could not be reversed.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is also the deputy prime minister and widely considered to be the country’s real powerbroker, said the protests were an attempt to “destroy” Poland. He urged people to “defend” the nation as well as the Catholic Church.

Last Thursday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court closed one of the few remaining legal grounds for abortion in Poland, and followed a legal challenge by MPs from the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (Pis) last year.

The decision means terminations are only valid in cases of rape or incest, or to protect the mother’s life. The ruling cannot be appealed against but only comes into force after it is published in the journal of laws, AFP news agency reports. It is not clear when that will happen.

A recent poll in Gazeta Wyborcza suggested that 59% thought the changes to abortion rules had gone too far.

What’s the latest on the protests?

Women opposed to the ruling are expected to stay away from work and school and refuse to do domestic chores, in a protest inspired by
a women’s strike in Iceland in 1975.

A similar demonstration was held in 2016,
when thousands of Polish women marched through the streets wearing black as a sign of mourning for their rights as proposals to restrict terminations were being debated in parliament.

Image copyright

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Image caption

A protester holds coat hanger, a symbol of illegal abortions and women’s suffering

On Tuesday, centrist and left-wing MPs held up placards and shouted pro-choice slogans at Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, after the conservative speaker of parliament compared the red lightning bolt that is symbol of the protest movement to Nazi imagery.

“We tried to show solidarity with the protesters that filled up the streets and demanded what they’re demanding… a real debate about the full reproductive rights for women,” Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak, a left-leaning MP, told the BBC.

But in a video message on Facebook, Mr Kaczynski said: “There could not have been a different ruling given the constitution… We have to remember that we’re completely in the right when it comes to legal questions.”

Image copyright

SOPA Images via Getty Images

Image caption

The red lightning bolt that is symbol of the movement against the abortion ruling

Opposition Civic Coalition leader Borys Budka reacted by saying that words calling for “hatred, inciting civil war and using party forces to attack citizens are a crime,” according to AP news agency.

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Poland’s new abortion law triggers broader discontent as women lead protests

“Poland is an example for Europe and the world”, chanted the hundreds of pro-life activists gathered outside the Constitutional Court in Warsaw last Thursday. Their outburst of enthusiasm came after the court had ruled to almost completely ban abortions.



a group of people in a room: A protester with a sign of the women's rights campaign joins others on the fifth day of nationwide protests against recent court ruling that tightened Poland's restrictive abortion law, in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.


© Czarek Sokolowski/AP
A protester with a sign of the women’s rights campaign joins others on the fifth day of nationwide protests against recent court ruling that tightened Poland’s restrictive abortion law, in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.

But Tuesday, as yesterday, streets in large cities and small towns across Poland are blocked by not hundreds, but tens of thousands, mostly women, who are outraged by that restrictive court ruling.

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Today is the sixth day women came out with placards reading “My body’s not an incubator”, “This is war,” and Poles are beginning to take this protest further, beyond the anti-abortion law — to vent their anger at their rulers. Marta Lempart, one of the demos’ leaders says, “Now it’s not about abortion alone, it’s about freedom in general and abortion has become a symbol of it.”

Many in Poland are referring to the swelling protests as the Women’s Revolution. Poland has not seen such a manifestation of nationwide solidarity in years. During Monday’s protest, taxi drivers stopped their cabs and blocked road junctions, the so-called ‘ultras’ — soccer fans who take pride in being macho stadium hooligans — marched with the women. The town of Krakow was a scene of rare defiance — riot police, there to contain the demo, changed sides and took off their helmets, dropped their shields and marched alongside the protesting women.

It is common knowledge in Poland that it’s not only the conservative, right-wing government that is behind the ban, but particularly bishops of the influential Catholic Church. On Sunday demonstrators took their anger to the churches across the country and disrupted services.

MORE: The 22-year-old helping to lead Belarus’ protests from behind a screen in Poland


a group of people standing in front of a large crowd of people: Angered women's rights activists confront police and a far-right group on the fifth day of their nationwide protests against a recent court ruling that tightened Poland's restrictive abortion law, in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.


© Czarek Sokolowski/AP
Angered women’s rights activists confront police and a far-right group on the fifth day of their nationwide protests against a recent court ruling that tightened Poland’s restrictive abortion law, in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.


MORE: UN climate conference meets in coal-focused Poland

Laws imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 ban public gatherings of more than 10 people and provide authorities with a justifiable excuse to send in police to break up the swelling demos.

Several dozen people have been detained and fined, but at least for now, police actions have been restrained. Helmeted, shield-wielding riot police control the demos, but seem to be there mostly to intimidate.

Up until last Thursday, Poland’s abortion law was a compromise that worked. Pro-abortionists saw it as too restrictive, pro-lifers considered it to be too liberal, but both accepted it ever since the law was passed in 1993.

Abortion was allowed only if the pregnancy was a result of a criminal act, when pregnancy posed a serious threat to a pregnant

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Women’s groups lead more protests over Poland’s abortion law

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Women’s rights activists and thousands of their supporters held a fifth day of protests across Poland Monday, despite pandemic restrictions, after a top court tightened the predominantly Catholic nation’s already strict abortion law.

In Warsaw, demonstrators with drums, horns and firecrackers were blocking rush-hour traffic at a number of major roundabouts. Similar protests were held in other cities such as Poznan, Lodz and Katowice.

Protesters are defying a “red zone” ban on public gatherings intended to halt a spike in new coronavirus infections in Poland.

Angry street protests began after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled Thursday that it was unconstitutional to terminate a pregnancy due to fetal congenital defects, effectively banning almost all abortions.

READ MORE: Poland’s top court rules out abortions due to fetal defects

The head of a doctors’ group, Dr. Andrzej Matyja, speaking on Radio Zet, criticized the ruling’s timing during the pandemic, saying it amounted to an “irresponsible provoking of people to rallies” where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Poland’s leaders have also come under criticism from professors at the reputed Jagiellonian University — the country’s oldest — who said that announcing such a ruling during a pandemic was an “extreme proof of a lack of responsibility for people’s lives.”

In a letter to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and to President Andrzej Duda, who is infected with the coronavirus, they appealed for a “way out of the situation … to be urgently found.”

Many gynecologists have also criticized the ruling. Maciej Jedrzejko argued that the ban will result in a rise in the number of dangerous, illegal abortions. He said sex education and access to contraceptives are the best way to limit the number of abortions.

The ruling by the government-controlled court overturned a hard-won compromise on the 1993 law that even then was one of Europe’s strictest abortion regulations.

After the ruling, abortion is allowed in Poland only when the pregnancy threatens the woman’s health or is the result of rape or incest.

European Parliament lawmaker for the conservative ruling team, Patryk Jaki, who is the father of a child with Down Syndrome, tweeted to say that abortions can also eliminate healthy children “because you rarely are 100% sure.”

Jaki also argued that abortions contributed to the nation’s negative birthrate which could be a “threat to Poland’s state.”

READ MORE: Millions of women lose access to contraceptives, abortions amid COVID-19

Health Ministry figures show that 1,110 legal abortions were carried out in Poland in 2019, mostly because of fetal defects. The non-government Federation For Women and Family Planning estimates the number of illegal abortions at between 100,000 -150,000 a year.

According to the Women’s Strike group, protesters in almost 50 cities and towns plan to block downtown traffic later Monday with cars, bikes, or by just walking.

The group says that forcing women to carry through pregnancies involving fetuses with severe defects will result in their unnecessary physical and mental suffering.

Group leader Marta Lempart said there will also be a strike

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