Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, allowing for the procedure only in extreme cases such as rape or when the fetus is terminally ill–and a new legislation proposal wants to make the law even harsher, banning abortion completely. After the country’s prime minister, Beata Szydlo, said last week that she supports such a ban, thousands of people took to the streets to protest.
Following the demonstrations, one set of protesters aims to inundate the prime minister with details about women’s menstrual cycles, inspired by a similar action in Indiana, where governor Mike Pence recently signed a restrictive abortion bill.
“The government wants to control our uteruses, eggs and pregnancies. Isn’t it nice that it cares for us? Let’s make its task easier,” wrote the Polish group’s organizers. Under the hashtag #TrudnyOkres (“tough period”), they encourage women to call Szydlo’s office, send her letters, and comment on her Facebook page, talking about their monthly woes. The results range from brutally honest to soul-baring to hilarious:
“Dear Madam Prime Minister, today I felt a pricking in my left ovary. I think I am undergoing ovulation.”
“Because you are so concerned with Polish women’s uteruses, that you want to equip them with a police officer and a prosecutor… I will save you some trouble… and kindly inform you that my period is coming. I should get it on Tuesday. At the moment, my boobs are aching, my legs and lower abdomen are swollen, and I have already eaten my chocolate Easter egg, as well as half of my husband’s.”
“Dear Madam Prime Minister Beata, I would like to inform you that my cycle is going fine. I got my period on time (my cycle is 31 days), on the first day it hurt the same way it usually does (on all fours at home, with a hot water bottle), but then it went smoothly and it’s all over now :) My fertile days are in about 5-6 days, but I am leaving the country for a week and won’t see my husband during the span of my ovulation.”
The proposed ban is a “citizens initiative,” which has to be considered by lawmakers if it gathers 100,000 signatures. It includes the threat of criminal prosecution for both doctors and mothers. The Polish Catholic church came out in full support of the bill, and on Sunday, priests in Polish churches read a letter from the church’s leadership appealing to lawmakers to pass the legislation.” In at least two churches, groups of women protested by leaving during the reading. [link in Polish]
The church is very influential in the majority Catholic country, and has deep ties with the ruling right-wing government. When Szydlo said she supported the ban [link in Polish], she said “the reasonable voice of the Polish Bishops’ Conference will be necessary to have a substantive discussion. It’s important that we hear from experts, [moral] authorities.”
Following the weekend’s protests, Szydlo back-tracked somewhat on her comments [link in Polish], saying that the abortion ban is “not an issue in Poland,” because the proposal was not yet a bill. Even though she voiced her support for the ban on public radio, she said “I was speaking in a personal capacity, and I emphasized that these were my personal opinions.”