Sunday sees fourth day of protests against top court's abortion verdict

Polish activists staged protests during Sunday church services. Jakub Kaczmarczyk/PAP

Sunday marked the fourth straight day of protests across Poland against a Thursday ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) which put a near-total ban on abortion.

Polish activists staged protests during church services in Warsaw and other Polish cities on Sunday, holding banners with slogans such as "Women's hell is in Poland" to express their outrage at the abortion ruling by the country's top court.

The protesters also chanted vulgar slogans aimed at the church and the ruling party. The police intervened a couple of times after scuffles and attacks.

In a statement released on Sunday evening, Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, the president of the Polish Bishops' Conference (KEP), said that the position of the Catholic Church on the right to life remains unchanged and publicly known, however "it is not the Church that makes the law" in Poland and it is not the bishops who "make decisions on the compliance or non-compliance of laws with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland."

Commenting on aggressive forms of protest, Gądecki said that the profanity, violence and disruption of church masses are not the correct way to act. He also asked the protesters to express their views in a socially acceptable way.

Over the weekend, despite the recent ban on gatherings of more than five people, thousands of people continued their protests against the TK ruling in many Polish cities.

Demonstrations were held in Warsaw, the northern city of Gdańsk, the central city of Łódź, southern Katowice and southwestern Wrocław.

In Warsaw, on Saturday, several hundred people protested in front of the headquarters of the ruling conservative party Law and Justice (PiS) and then moved to the Constitutional Tribunal building, accusing PiS of politicising Poland's top court by manning it with judges loyal to the ruling party.

On Sunday, the Polish capital saw crowds of protesters in front of the Borch Palace, the House of the Archbishops of Warsaw, shouting "It is not you who will be giving birth to dead babies."

In the coastal city of Gdańsk, both on Saturday and Sunday, several thousand people blocked the centre of the city, brandishing banners expressing their anger against the verdict and shouting obscenities against the ruling party.

In Łódź, on Saturday, nearly a thousand protesters, including feminist and left-wing activists, gathered in the city centre also venting anger against the verdict and the ruling party.

In Katowice, around 4,000 people marched through the streets of the city on Saturday evening in protest over the TK ruling. An even bigger demonstration was staged on Sunday in front of the city's main cathedral.

In Wrocław, on Saturday, several thousand demonstrators protested against the tightening of the country's abortion laws in Ostrów Tumski, the oldest part of the city, where the office of local bishops is located.

On Sunday, similar protests were held in western Poznań, eastern Rzeszów, southern Kraków, northern Toruń and many other Polish cities.

On Thursday, Poland's Constitutional Tribunal ruled that laws currently permitting abortion due to foetal defects are unconstitutional. The ruling follows a 2019 motion to the court by 119 MPs from the ruling Law and Justice party and two opposition groupings.

Current abortion laws in Poland are very strict compared to other EU member countries. Abortion is admissible if pre-natal tests reveal a high probability of irreversible damage to the foetus or its affliction with an incurable and life-endangering ailment. Other admissible cases include an immediate threat to a woman's life and incest or rape.