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Pro-choice activists dressed up as handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel gathered outside the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw to protest further restrictions on abortion.

The performance was a reaction to the government’s attempt at further tightening the already restrictive abortion laws. Meeting tomorrow, the Constitutional Tribunal will examine the validity of the embryopathological premise for terminating a pregnancy. Should the premise be ruled unconstitutional, the decision would mean a de facto ban on legal abortion in Poland.

While Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, the government now also seeks to force pregnant women into giving birth to children with incurable diseases and serious physical defects, even in cases when a neonatal death is certain and known in advance.

It is yet another attempt of the ruling Law and Justice party at tightening the anti-abortion laws. Although the coronavirus pandemic made it considerably more difficult for the women's rights activists to protest, they still found ways to stand up to the authorities in solidarity with many Polish women who are fighting for their right to access safe and legal abortion.

Earlier today, the activist organized an artistic performance outside the Constitutional Tribunal. – Dressed up as characters from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, we read aloud passages from the book. While the novel was written in 1986, it proves that science-fiction is slowly becoming reality- said Karolina Micuła, an activist and performer responsible for the script of today’s gathering. –Since we might soon wake up in our very own Polish Republic of Gilead, we read excerpts from the novel that describe how the government banned prenatal research, how people ignored the actions of the authorities, or how the entire system relied on the so-called “aunts”, i.e. powerful female guards of the patriarchy. Atwood writes that for an oppressive patriarchal system to be effective, it must rely on women controlling other women.

The protesters see such „aunt” figures in people like Kaja Godek (a fervent anti-abortion activist) and the current President of the Constitutional Tribunal, Julia Przyłębska (privately, a close friend of Jarosław Kaczyński). That’s why during the performance the activists referred to both women as “aunts”.

Towards the end of the performance, the activists demonstratively took off their oversized white bonnets (a symbol of the handmaid’s subjugation), and, pointing towards the Constitutional Tribunal’s building, chanted: “Whose fault is this? Her fault! Her fault!".

The event has been registered and took place in accordance with the existing rules and regulations. At some point, an unexpected anti-abortion van appeared at the site of the protest. The van has been driving around the streets of Warsaw for the past several days. The vehicle is covered with gore photographs of allegedly aborted foetuses and plays fundamentalist slogans from its loudspeakers. The activists tried to block the van twice, but when they sat on the street in front of it, the police intervened. – The police wrote down our personal information, and then some of us were moved to the sidewalk and surrounded by the officers so that we wouldn’t move. The van was free to drive away- Ms. Micuła told us.  

The Constitutional Tribunal will announce its decision tomorrow at 11:00 am.

Aktywistki podczas performance'u związanego z jutrzejszym posiedzeniem TKAktywistki podczas performance'u związanego z jutrzejszym posiedzeniem TK Marta Bogdanowicz


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