Polish president criticises mass abortion protests

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday criticised mass demonstrations that have been sweeping across Polish cities for a week now after the tightening of abortion laws by the country's Constitutional Tribunal.

Poland's top court ruled last Thursday that abortion on the grounds of a severe damage to the foetus is unconstitutional, sparking outrage among women. Young people took to the streets in their thousands, shouting obscenities against the ruling party, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), of which Duda is an ally. The demonstrations also targeted churches as the protesters accuse the Roman Catholic Church of forming an informal alliance with PiS to push through the contested change and other conservative agenda items.

"We have democracy and people can hold different views and I am aware that there are groups in Poland that demand a sudden turn to the left. But to make such turns, a democratic state has elections. When election time comes, people can assess the government at the ballot boxes, they will be able to elect new candidates to parliament and a new government can be formed, then we'll see what preferences Polish society has," the president told private radio broadcaster RMF FM.

The next parliamentary elections are planned for the autumn of 2023.

The president said that the fact that "a group of people takes to the streets and demands a revolution in Poland doesn't mean that we should yield to that, especially if it is against the law."

Poland has recently imposed restrictions on mass gatherings to stem the spread of coronavirus, limiting the number of people at public gatherings to five.

The president appealed for peace and focusing on fighting the coronavirus epidemic and criticised the protesters' anger against the Church, including the disruption of masses and spraying slogans on church facades.

He also suggested that "some political group" has used the abortion verdict "to pursue their goals."

On Wednesday, in a more conciliatory tone, the president said that he expected the ruling camp to prepare a law that would calm down the protesters, adding that he was ready to get involved in drafting such legislation.

He suggested the new draft should allow abortion in the most serious cases of foetal damage, including those where the child was expected to die immediately or soon after birth, but should exclude Down's syndrome.