On 25 November, the European Parliament overwhelmingly adopted a resolution supported by 455 votes to 145 against that “strongly condemns” Poland’s recent further restriction of abortion law and urges the government to “refrain from any further attempts” to restrict women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. The resolution is non-binding, but MEPs want to put additional pressure on the Polish government, which is already subject to four EU infringement procedures and an Article 7 procedure for passing reforms that undermine the independence of the judiciary. The resolution noted that the Polish ruling “puts women’s health and life at risk” and “fails to protect the inherent and inalienable dignity of women.” It also describes the denial of women’s reproductive rights as “gender-based violence”.
On the same day, the European Commission urged Poland not to abandon the Istanbul Convention, a treaty against domestic violence, as Warsaw continues to drift further from EU norms. “The Istanbul Convention is the gold standard in terms of policy in this area,” Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli said in the European Parliament. Poland is threatening to exit the accord, but Dalli pledged that if by mid-2021, the EU still faced shortcomings in this area, then the Commission would propose a “legal initiative … to reach the same objectives as the Istanbul Convention” and would propose making violence against women a “eurocrime”. These include designated offences, such as terrorism and human trafficking, where the EU sets minimum penalties for the whole bloc.
“It’s utterly unacceptable that a Constitutional Court controlled by the government wants to attack one of the fundamental rights of women”, Iratxe García Pérez, a Spanish MEP (pictured above) in charge of the Socialists & Democrats group. Poland is taking “a step backward in time,” said Dutch liberal MEP Samira Rafaela.
A handful of anti-abortion MEPs spoke of their Christian beliefs. But for Sylwia Spurek, a Polish Green MEP, the Law & Justice Party’s vision of Poland clashes with normal EU values and politics. “There is no rule of law in Poland anymore. There is no free public media. There are no rights for women. Every year in Poland we move further away from Paris, from Berlin, from Rome,” she said. “We [Polish women] don’t want to continue to suffer because of one party and one religion.”
Meanwhile, the protests continue.
SOURCES: Politico, by Maïa de la Baume, 25 November 2020 / Pool photo by Olivier Hoslet/AFP via Getty Images ; EU Observer, by Andrew Rettman, 26 November 2020