POLAND – European Union to take action on Rule of Law issues in Poland and Hungary while anti-abortion backlash in Poland goes public

Hearings have been scheduled to finally take place on 22 June 2021 at the General Affairs Council of the European Union, which brings together the European Affairs ministers of the 27 member States. Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed on Monday the intention of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU to move forward with the proceedings. Issues related to “application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights”, and the Social Affairs Council, focused on “inclusion strategies”, and action plans to “combat discrimination, racism, anti-semitism, hate speech” would be considered.

SOURCE: Euractiv.com, by Beatriz Céu, 19 May 2021.

Campaigns and initiatives of anti-rights organisations
From the end of 2020, it has been reported that cities across Poland have been flooded by anti-abortion and anti-divorce billboards. Only until 1 February, according to the estimates of Media People (relying on data from Kantar Media), the foundation behind the campaign is estimated to have spent approximately 1.2 million Euros. Their billboards, with new designs, keep appearing in the public space aiming to spam collective perceptions.

In April 2021 the Federation for Women & Family Planning commissioned a poll to find out what public opinion was about this anti-abortion campaign and whether it was influencing citizens’ views on abortion. According to the responses, 82 % of the people who had seen the billboards had not changed their views on abortion.

In March 2021 a new citizen’s initiative to criminalise women for abortion was launched by anti-rights groups. If adopted, the bill would afford full legal protection to the fetus from the moment of conception, ban abortion in cases where pregnancy is a result of sexual assault or if the woman’s health is at risk, which is provided for in the current Family Planning Act. Abortion would be treated as homicide punishable up to 25 years of imprisonment or even life imprisonment, although a court would have discretion to issue a more lenient punishment or waive punishment altogether.
At the same time, 16 Polish MPs aligned with the conservative ruling coalition have tabled yet another draft bill which, under the pretext of providing care to pregnant women with a suspected or diagnosed lethal fetal defect would require them to be referred to antenatal hospices, where it sounds as if they would effectively be imprisoned until they deliver.

Lastly, anti-rights campaigners have launched an action called “Stop abortion crimes” whose aim is to encourage citizens to lodge criminal complaints against anyone providing help to someone pregnant to access information and SRHR services. Some people supporting women to access medical abortion pills on social media have already been reported to the police for alleged “genocide”.

SOURCE: Federation for Women and Family Planning, 30 April 2021, in: CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights No 04 (201) 2021 ; PHOTO, by Kacper Pempel/Reuters, in Transitions, 12 May 2021, International Women’s Day protest, Warsaw, 8 March 2021