The Female Vendetta: Why separation of Church and State is imperative in Poland’s fight for access to abortion

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Police note down the names of protesters during Polish protests. These protests erupted following the implementation of anti-abortion laws, which leads to the importance of separation of church and state, especially in regards to women's reproductive rights. Photo Courtesy of Czarek Sokolowski/ Associated Press.

In the year 1932, Poland became the second country in the world to legalize abortion, allowing termination of the fetus in the case of extreme fetal defects, immediate threats to the women’s life or sexual assault cases involving either rape or incest. Despite neighboring countries like Russia deciding to recriminalize abortion just five years later, Poland contrastly created one of its most progressive policy changes in 1956, legalizing abortion even in the case of other medical and social issues, including unstable living conditions. For the first time, abortion recognized a women’s right to autonomy and independence, favoring the left leaning government that had blossomed despite interjections from regressive opponents to outlaw access to safe abortion in all aspects, social and medical.  

However, with a conservative nature at its roots and the inevitable fall of a left leaning communist government, access to safe abortion became a thing of the past. Though attempts to allow socio-economic reasoning for abortion became more active over subsequent years, politicians and political priorities became increasingly blinded as relationships with the church continued to tighten. Safe reproductive resources for women fell short of the goal. 

“Though attempts to allow socio-economic reasoning for abortion became more active over subsequent years, politicians and political priorities became increasingly blinded as relationships with the church continued to tighten. Safe reproductive resources for women fell short of the goal.”

As women take to the streets in some of Poland’s major cities such as Krakow and Warsaw, the fight to replace the government’s religious vendetta on abortion has only become more aggressive. Hundreds of thousands of women have met for days straight since the start of protests on Oct. 22, reminding us that the battle is one repeatedly motivated by ill religious intentions. 

For years, Poland’s Catholic church has wedged its way into politics. With 95% of Poland’s population being Catholic, the church has gone above and beyond to maintain a traditional system. Priests have motivated worshippers to vote for conservative majorities such as PiS, preached sermons advertising anti-abortion laws, and advocated for new heavily religious education systems. Deflecting the needs of women has always been a part of their ambitious agenda. Consequently, the Polish government shaped into a system blindly led by the Catholic church in order to maintain “state harmony,” between themselves and their people. You tend to wonder, why is that? Why is it that Poland has allowed the superimposition of the church? And the answer is: to maintain tradition and “peace.” Because Poland’s history, both past and present, is largely embedded in the church, abiding conservative stereotypes has become the socio-political norm, uprooting any source of true democracy.  

Protesters take part in the nationwide daily anti-government protests in Poland, which have entered a third week after a top court ruled to further tighten the strict abortion laws in Poland. For years, Poland’s Catholic church has wedged its way into politics. With 95% of Poland’s population being Catholic, the church has gone above and beyond to maintain a traditional system. This includes the implementation of anti- abortion laws. Photo Courtesy of Czarek Sokolowski/ Associated Press.

In hand, abortion has then turned into a religious concern; fueled by outdated ideologies. It is a tactic used to create a sense of uniformity in the face of a global growing desire for diversity. The Catholic church in that hand has become the public enemy, causing lack of inclusion and freedom of choice— essential parts of what establishes a fair democracy. And as the world quickly progresses and feminism becomes a more prominent part of politics, traditions no longer properly function, causing the Catholic church to fight back harder and more aggressively. 

However, abortion is not a religious concern, it never has been. It is a fundamental human right for women and girls. Part of a comprehensive list of reproductive health services, abortion guarantees right to life as well as equality among women and girls . As a member of the United Nations, you would assume that European states such as Poland would implement these ethics into their policymaking, but it is religion again that dictates women’s universal human rights despite cries for progression. At this point, using democracy to defend a government on the brink of theocracy is simply far-fetched and irresponsible.  

“As a member of the United Nations, you would assume that European states such as Poland would implement these ethics into their policymaking, but it is religion again that dictates women’s universal human rights despite cries for progression.”

With enough time spent on the political playground, churches have had their moment to toy with the boundaries of women’s rights. There should be no tug of war between abortion and religion when no excuse is justifiable enough in the face of a dying democracy. The more Poland uses Catholicism to condone their retrograde and religious vendetta on women, the more dangerous their means of acquiring access to safe abortion will become as well as their thirst to expose the intentions of a purely Catholic society. Therefore, creating substantial, democratic change is imperative to achieving the “state harmony” that Poland so greatly searches for.  

In order to re-establish peace within the state, the right-wing majority should diversify the political climate in the next election by including leaders from various sections of the political spectrum. By including leaders such as left leaning politicians, Poland could reclaim their sense of democracy. This action could directly diversify the political climate, allowing for more inclusivity and a broader separation of church and state which may reclaim the vote of liberal feminists and establish a more harmonious relationship between Poland and its people.  

For so long, the exploitation by the Catholic church has entrapped political leaders in a state of furious limbo. So, by allowing liberals to develop new strategies focused on positive referendums, we can be reminded that human rights were never really up to God, but us.  

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