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Polish bishops launch ‘day of prayer’ for unborn after lawmakers advance pro-abortion bills

Jaroslaw Kaczynski (front, center), leader of the Law and Justice political party (PiS) in Poland, takes part in the voting on four draft projects on abortion rights at the Polish Parliament (SEJM) on April 12, 2024, in Warsaw, Poland. / Credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 12, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in Poland are asking the faithful to make Sunday a “day of prayer” for unborn children after the country’s lawmakers advanced four pro-abortion bills in the heavily Catholic country on Friday.

“I warmly encourage you to make the coming Sunday a day of special prayer in defense of the unborn,” Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda, the chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference, said in a statement.

“I ask that in all churches in Poland, at every holy Mass, we pray for this intention,” Wojda said.

Lawmakers on Friday advanced four pro-abortion bills to be considered by a special committee in the Sejm, which is Poland’s lower legislative body. This was the first major action on abortion taken by the new coalition government led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk after voters ousted the Law and Justice party from leadership of the country. 

Two of the bills would legalize abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy, which would be a sharp departure from the country’s strong pro-life laws. Under current law, abortion is only legal when the mother’s life is at risk or when the pregnancy occurred from illegal sexual activity, such as rape or incest.

A third bill would decriminalize abortion. Although women who procure abortions do not face criminal penalties under current law, anyone who assists a woman in carrying out an abortion could land up to three years in prison. The proposal would eliminate those criminal penalties for abortionists and other accomplices.

The fourth bill, which was proposed by the center-right Third Way party, would maintain most of the current abortion laws but expand legal abortion to instances in which the unborn child has a fetal abnormality.

In his call for a day of prayer, Wojda referenced his “Statement on Respect for Human Life in the Prenatal Phase,” which he published on Thursday amid the ongoing abortion debate in Poland.

“Life is a gift of God and as such is an inalienable right of every human being; therefore, it must be protected and supported at every stage of its development,” the archbishop said. “Respect for life, which belongs to the most important values, is one of the fundamental duties of every human being.”

The annual March for Life in Poland is also scheduled to take place in Warsaw, the country’s capital, on Sunday. The pro-life demonstration routinely draws thousands of people to the city.

A long abortion debate ahead

Several left-wing lawmakers in Poland cheered the result of the vote on Friday, but other members of Tusk’s coalition government took a more nuanced approach, which suggests that it’s still uncertain whether the proposals will make their way through the committee or whether they would pass the Sejm.

“We got it!!” Robert Biedroń, a member of the Polish New Left, said in a post on X

“The Sejm voted on the abortion [proposals] prepared by the Left and referred them to a special committee in the Sejm,” Biedroń said. “This is good news, especially for Polish women who have been fighting for their rights for 30 years. We keep working!”

Sejm Marshal Szymon Hołownia, a member of the center-right Third Way and chair of the legislative body, did not indicate that he would vote for the proposal. Rather, in a post on X, he said the chamber’s decision to advance the bills was based on respect for the democratic process.

“We promised to stop arguing and we kept our word,” Hołownia said. 

“We believe that the greatest chance for change is provided by a referendum, but we voted for all the [proposals],” he added. “We did it out of respect for democracy and concern for the durability of the coalition. Now we leave the fate of these bills in the hands of the committee members.”

Third Way has not formally endorsed the plan to legalize abortion through 12 weeks of pregnancy. Rather, the party’s official position has been that the Polish people should decide the country’s abortion laws via a national referendum. 

The country is governed by a three-prong coalition. The New Left and Tusk’s centrist Civic Coalition have both endorsed the plan to legalize abortion through 12 weeks. Third Way, which is part of that coalition, has not formally endorsed the plan. The conservative Law and Justice and the Confederation Liberty parties, which are in the minority, are opposed to the proposals. 

Dariusz Matecki, a member of Law and Justice, handed out figurines of an unborn child that show the child’s development by 10 weeks of pregnancy — a time in which the child could be aborted under the proposals. 

“This educational model raises awareness of what a 10-week-old unborn baby looks like,” Matecki said in a post on X. “… Many [members of Parliament] from Tusk’s coalition reacted with simple aggression and vulgarity.”

Poland and Malta are the only two countries in the European Union that have strong pro-life protections for unborn children.

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