Protesters across Poland flooded the streets for the seventh day in a row to protest a top court ruling that bans nearly all abortions, prompting the government to deploy riot police and the military.
Poland was already home to some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, and that was before the country’s Constitutional Tribunal issued a ruling on Thursday that halted abortions even in the case of fetal abnormalities—the only type of pregnancy termination allowed in the country. Pregnancies resulting from rape and those threatening a woman’s life are legal.
“I am so furious! They have no right to decide about my life, about my personal decisions, about my future,” Julka Wojciechowska, 19, told Euronews. “They don’t understand young people. They don’t understand the world now, but they are trying to regulate our lives. We will never allow that.”
Protesters also carried signs with anti-government messages, like “My uterus is not your playground,” and “I wish I could abort my government,” the New York Times reports.
But Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the deputy prime minister and leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, has called for the demonstrations to be crushed. “You are smashing Poland to pieces, you’re endangering lots of people, you are criminals,” he told opposition lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday, adding that churches must be defended “at any cost.”
Many fear that Kaczynski’s call will incite further violence, and NGOs have expressed alarm at the effects of military deployment against peaceful protesters. In a joint statement, CIVICUS and the International Planned Parenthood Federation said that protesters are “being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups” with authorities using “tear gas, pepper spray and physical assault.”
Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said Wednesday that so far, 76 people have been arrested in connection with the protests at churches, and that proceedings are being carried out in 101 cases.
Poland’s parliament struck down a total abortion ban in 2016, a move largely attributed to the huge protest against it.