The consequences of the Black Monday protests
On Oct. 2, women across Poland started a nationwide protest against government plans to ban abortion. According to The Independent, about 6 million people went on strike for reproductive rights.
Thousands of women across Poland marched in black as a memoriam to deteriorating reproductive rights. This action was inspired by the passage of Roe v. Wade in the U.S. in 1973 and a previous strike in Iceland in 1975. According to BBC, women in Iceland refused to do any domestic work for a day. The article describes it as: “a moment that changed the way women were seen in the country and helped put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality.”
Here we see history repeating itself.
Reproductive rights in Poland have always been a problem. According to official figures on The Independent, “around 1,000 legal abortions are performed in Poland every year.” It is also estimated that 150,000 women each year perform abortions on themselves. Last June, activists also used drones to fly abortion pills into Poland.
For Black Monday, these women refused to work in an attempt to slow the economy. Official strikes called the “black protest” took place in 60 different Polish cities. Businesses and corporations also pledged to close their doors in solidarity.
“A lot of women and girls in this country have felt that they don’t have any power, that they are not equal, that they don’t have the right to an opinion,” Magda Staroszczyk, a strike coordinator, told The Guardian. “This is a chance for us to be seen, and to be heard.”
If the proposed ban hadn’t been lifted, all abortions and potentially miscarriages would be seen as criminal and sentenced to prison for up to five years. Any doctor who assisted with or performed an abortion would also face legal charges. Even women who have had miscarriages could be accused of inducing an abortion.
Sadly, this is the status quo for women in America as well. In 2015, Purvi Patel faced jail time for a self-induced abortion who was charged with feticide and child neglect. According to Salon, “On March 30, 2015, Patel, convicted of both crimes, was sentenced to 20 consecutive years in prison. To date, she has served one year and four months of that time.”
Even though the decision was later overturned in Indiana’s appeals court after feminist groups came to her defense, this says a lot about the state of abortion rights. It is also important to note that she is a woman of color in Indiana, a very conservative state, which played a role in her being criminalized and targeted.
According to Reappropriate, “Patel was charged with feticide using laws originally written with the intention of protecting battered women from physical abuse that leads to the loss of their fetus at the hands of their batterer; that law has been used twice by prosecutors in Indiana to persecute women — and in both cases, those women have been Asian American and/or immigrant women of colour.”
This is a reality when it comes to reproductive rights. Religious and political ideologies are still a strong force attempting to control women’s bodies and decisions. Even in this protest, the heavily Catholic state of Poland still sees abortion as acceptable only in certain circumstances and a personal choice.
Malgorzata Lodyga, a junior doctor who supports the strike, said: “My mother is very Catholic, goes to church every Sunday, and is against abortion just because you might not want the child. But she is against this law, because if a woman is raped, she will be treated worse than the man who raped her.”
The Independent writes: “Campaigners added that they wanted as few abortions as possible in Poland, but this goal should be achieved with better sex education in schools and easier access to birth control, The New York Times reported.”
Women in Poland still have to deal with the role of the religious right’s limits on bodily autonomy. Slogans and banners may say things like “my body, my choice,” but they still impose regulations and ideologies on their citizens about why a woman can get an abortion. The argument isn’t that women can choose no matter what. Instead the narrative is that women can get an abortion only under these specific circumstances.
Christina Tudor is a fourth-year writing and politics double major who doesn’t know where is safe from right-wing pro-lifers. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.