The political temperature in Poland is dangerously hot. It began to rise last Thursday when the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that an article of the 1993 law which allows terminating pregnancy under certain circumstances, including a severe injury to the child during the prenatal period or in the case of severe illness leading to a certain neonatal death, is unconstitutional. As a result, women will be forced to give birth to severely damaged fetuses. The ruling was issued by all the members of the Constitutional Tribunal, including the “fake judges” illegally appointed by the ruling camp. Members of the opposition, many lawyers and experts, consider the ruling invalid. On Tuesday, the President of the Constitutional Tribunal, Julia Przyłębska ordered to publish the ruling.
The Law and Justice party backed down once before
Since Thursday, tens of thousands of men and women have been protesting in the Polish streets in the midst of a raging pandemic. They even took to the streets of cities and small towns where no demonstrations have taken place before. For many young people who have joined the protests, it was the very first time they ever participated in such political manifestation.
Demonstrators filled the streets of such cities as Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, or Gdańsk, but also smaller provincial towns considered the unshaken bastions of the Law and Justice party.
In many of these places, people have voted for the Law and Justice party in the last parliamentary election, and Andrzej Duda received an overwhelming majority of votes in his race for the presidential office.
Back in the fall of 2016, when the ruling camp considered tightening the abortion laws, hundreds of thousands of women all across Poland took to the streets and participated in „black protests”. Their power was overwhelming – the government backed down. It doesn’t look like it will do it again. But the fury of the people is extraordinary, and, according to a Kantar poll for “Wyborcza”, even the supporters of the ruling camp show a different opinion than their party leaders
Yes to abortion, but not on demand
We have asked for people’s opinions about the recent Court ruling. As much as 73% of respondents disagree with the ruling (including 60% disagreeing “strongly”). Only 13% support the decision, and 14% “don’t care”.
Respondents from the largest cities and with higher education disagree with the ruling more often than others. Interestingly, the Law and Justice party electorate is divided - 37% support the Court's decision and 36% do not. Opposition voters have no doubts, over 90% disagree with the ruling.
It’s hardly a surprise that non-religious people disagree with the near total abortion ban. But what about the religious ones? Here, 67% of the respondents are critical of the Court ruling, and as much as 93% of those who declare to be “spiritual but not affiliated” oppose the decision.
The Court’s decision does not even convince respondents who admit to having a friendly attitude towards the Church. Thus, in the "critical but sympathetic" group of surveyed people, 80% do not agree with the Court’s interpretation. Among the "favorable and friendly" - 57%, and among the "very favorable and completely supporting the Church"- 38%.
For years, there has been wide public support in Poland for the right to pregnancy termination in cases when the mother’s life (86%, according to a CBOS poll from October 2016) or health is in danger (77%), or in cases when the pregnancy has been the result of a crime (79%) or when the fetus is severely damaged (60%).
In the case of abortion on demand, however, the numbers are looking quite different. Public support for it kept falling year after year. In March 2016, it was at 14%. The mood has changed in the fall of 2016, after the "black protests", when the Law and Justice party tried to tighten the abortion laws. At that time, according to a CBOS opinion poll, support for the right to abortion increased to 20% and continued to grow. In the spring of last year, we reported that support for the right to abortion on demand in Poland grew during the rule of the Law and Justice party. At that time, according to the Kantar survey for "Wyborcza", 58% of respondents believed that "women should have the right to an abortion on demand within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy”. Only 35% of all respondents thought otherwise. The only large group that did not support the right to abortion was the Law and Justice voters, although even among them as many as 33% were in favor of it (59% were against).
Today, 22% of Poles declares their support for the right to abortion on demand (within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy). This group includes the electorate of the Law and Justice party. In general, only 11% of all respondents support a total ban on abortion.
Law and Justice supporters agree somewhat
The majority of respondents - 62% - supports the right to abortion only in certain cases. What are these situations? When the pregnancy poses a threat to the life and health of the mother - 63%. In a situation when the fetus is permanently and irreversibly damaged - 59%. If the pregnancy is a result of rape - 54%. And in the case of a difficult personal situation of the mother - 10%.
61% of respondents who describe themselves as religious support the right to abortion when the fetus is permanently and irreversibly damaged.
And how did the Law and Justice party voters respond? Every tenth supports the right to abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, 40% are also in favor of legal abortion in cases enshrined in the 1993 law. Within that group, 40% supports the right to abortion when the fetus is permanently and irreversibly damaged. In other cases listed in the Act, the numbers look as follows: 55% support the right to abortion when the life and health of the mother are endangered, 40% when the pregnancy is the result of rape.
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronavirus pandemic for you.
They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.
We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.
The access to information should be equal for all.