On Monday, approximately 30,000 people skipped work and school to gather in and around Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland. This event stood as one of multiple mass protests, which saw participants dressed in black to take part in the event known as Black Monday. These organized gatherings expressed opposition to a proposed extreme ban on abortion in the country.
As a result, the controversial measure that would have banned all instances of abortion (with no exceptions) has virtually collapsed. Parliament is said to have backed away from pushing the bill after the protests, and a committee has urged members to vote it down completely. Indeed, a flood of angry responses to the bill has given lawmakers pause over enacting harsh abortion restrictions even in the case of pregnancies resulting from incest or rape. Not only did tens of thousands of protesters flood Castle Square, but the protests extended nationwide and included a petition that gathered over 100,000 signatures. Public opinion is said to have dramatically shifted:
Jarosław Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said on Wednesday that the protests had “caused us to think and taught us humility.”
“The protest was bigger than anyone expected. People were astonished,” said Agnieszka Graff, a commentator and activist. “Warsaw was swarming with women in black. It was amazing to feel the energy and the anger, the emotional intensity was incredible.”
Poland’s existing restrictions on abortion are already stringent with only a few exceptions, including fetal anomaly, danger to the mother’s life, and rape. During the Monday protests, the The New York Times spoke with some women involved in the case. One of them called the proposed ban “barbaric” while another — a mother of two — called it “beyond my wildest nightmares.” She also stressed how women don’t have abortions out of convenience or promiscuity and consider it a “traumatic” decision that stems from need.