Polish PM Distances Government From Abortion Ban

The statement comes just one day after nearly 100,000 people protested the ban in Poland

Poland's prime minister said Tuesday that her government is not working on a proposal to tighten Poland's abortion law, distancing herself from the controversial measure and weakening its chances for becoming law.

Beata Szydlo also she did not approve of her foreign minister's strong criticism of the many Poles who took part in large protests Monday against the proposal.

Szydlo, speaking during a news conference, said she wanted to see calmer emotions surrounding the divisive proposal to impose a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or if the mother's life is at risk. She said that all views on the matter need to be respected.

Yet she was clearly distancing herself and her government — and by extension her ruling party, Law and Justice, which has a majority in parliament — from the proposal.

"I want to say it very loudly and clearly: the government of Law and Justice was not working and is not working on any law that would change the currently binding regulations," Szydlo said.

It was not immediately clear if the proposal would die immediately in the parliamentary commission stage, where it is now, or whether it might still move forward in parliament, where some lawmakers support it.

Bills can either be sent to parliament by the government, the president, or be written directly by the lawmakers themselves, and lawmakers would have the right to continue to consider the proposal. However, the ruling party could pressure its lawmakers not to support it.

The proposal came from an anti-abortion citizens' initiative that gathered 450,000 signatures and is supported by the church.

Opposition in the larger society is massive.

On Monday nearly 100,000 people donned black and attended street protests across the country, while there were also rallies in Brussels and other European cities. Some Polish women also boycotted work and classes to protest the proposal.

Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with abortion allowed only in cases of rape or incest, if the fetus is badly damaged or if the woman's life in at risk. Many of the protesters slammed the idea for a total ban as "medieval" and "barbaric."

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski earlier Tuesday called the protests "marginal" and denounced them as "a mockery of important issues."

Those words angered women and members of the political opposition and prompted calls for him to apologize.

Szydlo said she did not approve of Waszczykowski's words.

"I summoned him and told him that there will be no approval for that kind of commentary of these events," Szydlo said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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