A more liberal abortion law was an election promise of the center-left Polish coalition. This is now being delayed in the House of Representatives.

Protesters in Poland.

Currently, many women take to the streets in Poland to protest. Photo: Mikolaj Janeczek/imago

WARSAW taz | For Szymon Holownia, Poland's political breakout star, the debate over liberalizing abortion rights could mean the premature end of his career. The former TV presenter, who immediately joined Prime Minister Donald Tusk's new centre-left coalition with his newly founded Christian Democrat party Polska2050, wants to be elected successor to current President Andrzej Duda in 2025.

But now Holownia has become angry with many Polish women who, in October 2023, had voted for the liberal-conservative Citizens' Platform (PO), the Third Way of the Farmers' Party PSL and Polska2050, as well as the party alliance New Left. “Polish women will not forgive him for this betrayal,” says political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska. “You will receive the receipt in 2025.”

First of all, Holownia, as speaker of the Polish House of Representatives, repeatedly postponed the date of the debate on the liberalization of the right to abortion. And now he asks for a vote “according to his own conscience”, that is, without party discipline. But this could mean that the four legislative projects of the government coalition fail because the two opposition parties, the national-populist Law and Justice (PiS) and the far-right Confederation, will surely vote against.

Holownia has until Friday to decide between good relations with the Polish Catholic Church or the future presidency. The vote on whether the four bills will be sent to the Sejm special committee for further discussion will take place just one day after Thursday's six-hour debate.

Progress or regression?

These are two projects of the New Left. One provides for legal abortion until the twelfth week of pregnancy, the second the decriminalization of helping people. Currently in Poland it is prohibited to transmit contacts to a humanitarian organization or a clinic abroad. The PO project also plans to allow abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.

The center-left coalition owes its electoral victory to the Poles

The Third Way legislative project alone would set Poland back 30 years. At that time, the Sejm deputies, mostly men, had reached a “compromise” with the Catholic bishops, who had called for a complete ban on abortion. The only indicators of abortion were rape, serious harm to the fetus, or danger to the pregnant woman. In 2020, at the request of PiS, the Constitutional Court eliminated the passage “serious harm to the fetus” from the law, considering it supposedly unconstitutional.

Since then, high-risk pregnancies in Poland have repeatedly ended in the death of the fetus and the expectant mother. If only an abortion could save the life of the pregnant woman, Polish doctors would prefer to wait or invoke “good Catholic conscience” when another patient dies.

Polish women decide election outcome

In October 2023, many angry Polish women voted for parties whose election promises (the liberalization of abortion rights, the over-the-counter morning-after pill, and state funding of in vitro fertilization) promised to solve many current problems. Voter turnout was higher than ever: more than 70 percent. Ultimately, the current center-left coalition in Warsaw owes its electoral victory to the Poles.

“Politicians decide whether abortion is legal or illegal,” said an activist outside the Polish parliament. “But whether women take an abortion pill or go to Belgium to have an abortion, they decide for themselves. Regardless of the law.”