Failure to push through "right to life" clause sees Polish Speaker of Parliament resign

In Poland, the country is about to face another political crisis. Conservative Law and Justice Marek Jurek has left party ranks and decided to step down from his post as speaker of parliament. What triggered this move? The failure to include a 'right to life' clause in the Constitution. Joanna Najfeld of Polish Radio's External Service reports:

Parliament rejected the proposition to strengthen the legal protection of life in the Polish Constitution after a consensus on the wording of the clause was not reached. Although over 60% of the parliamentarians voted for the amendment, 27 votes were lacking to achieve the required 2/3 majority.

The current Polish law states that abortion is not punishable if the fetus had been diagnosed with a disability, the mother claims to have been raped, or has health problems. In other cases, the person who performs abortion, but not the mother herself, faces criminal charges.

It was the League of Polish Families party which first proposed to amend the Constitution to ensure that abortion on demand is not legalized in Poland:

'We want Poland to be a truly democratic country where fundamental human rights are respected. The abortion law that we have now is eugenic. It divides people into those who deserve to be born and those who don't. We cannot accept that in the 21st century. We believe that all people deserve human rights.'

The initiative was supported by Poland's Commissioner for Children's Rights.

'Maybe the current law is a compromise but it still does not fully guarantee the right to life to every child. And in my opinion every child deserves to be born. My official duty, as the commissioner for children's rights, is to care of every child and I am faithful to that duty.'

Although the right to life amendment, even if passed, would not automatically change the present abortion law, pro-lifers called for an open debate on the discrimination against people based on their age, health and parentage. Feminist Inga Kaluzynska of the Women for Women Foundation:

'I don't want to live in a country where you can kill a child before birth just because this child is diagnosed with Down's syndrome. I would like to see disabled people respected. Also, abortion is never a cure for anything. Women who have health or mental problems during pregnancy should be offered help and not the harm and trauma of abortion.'

While a debate was on in the parliament, public and private persons voiced their stand on the issue.

'Many women think that life begins at conception, many women think that life begins at birth or any other moment - this is a woman's decision.'

'You must not force a woman to continue a pregnancy and giving birth to a child conceived in rape, when the mother's life or health is in danger, or when the fetus is irreversibly ill.'

'I am against abortion because murder is a crime.'

'A child before birth is a person. It won't be an animal. This is knowledge, science says that this is life.'

'Some time ago there were people in America who supported slavery, and now there are people who support abortion. This is the same problem - discrimination and exclusion.'

'Abortion not only kills a child, but also hurts women.'

Rallies were organized for and against the right to life amendment and pro-lifers usually largely outnumbered their opponents. Krzysztof took part in a 'Youth for Life' demonstration. With his friends, they brought 1000 candles to a central square in Warsaw, saying that this was to remember the pre-born children killed in the years 1993-2007 because they had been diagnosed with a disability, conceived in criminal circumstances or because their mother had health problems.

'Since this law is in operation, about 4000 children were killed before birth. We brought those candles here in the morning to remember those victims. Now it's the evening and the card which said that the candles are for children killed in abortion is gone, somebody has taken it. I understand that this truth can be difficult for some people, but I am very sorry that they don't want to respect the memory of those children.'

Since 1993 when abortion for social reasons was made illegal in Poland, the approval of abortion on demand has dropped by half. In a recent public opinion poll, 52.4% of Poles said they are for the constitutional amendment preserving the right to life of every citizen from conception to natural death. 15% were definitely against the idea.