The Citizens Take Over Europe coalition would like to express its strong support of women in Poland protesting the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal regarding abortion, as well as great admiration for their courage and determination.
On the 22nd of October Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled on the unconstitutionality of pregnancy terminations in cases where the foetus is severely damaged or malformed. The ruling further tightens the unjustly severe restrictions on pregnancy terminations which are among the most regressive in the EU. International law recognises the denial of abortion in cases of severe foetal damage as inhumane and degrading treatment which are outlawed by international treaties ratified by Poland. Therefore, the ruling is a tragic and terrifying precedent where one of the EU member states legally sanctions torture of their own citizens. On top of this brutal disregard for basic human rights, the tribunal’s decision goes also against the rule of law, since the decision was passed by an irregular panel. It also circumvents parliamentary process, as in the last few years similar legislative initiatives were repealed in the parliament. The cynicism of the gesture is all the more abhorrent since the ruling was delivered deliberately when the right to protest is curtailed because of the surge in COVID-19 infections.
The dynamics of the protests on Polish streets clearly demonstrate the inseparability of the rule of law, human rights and citizens participation. The current situation in Poland makes evident the tangible dimension of the rule of law, its direct impact on human lives and well-being. It proves that the formal framework of the legal system creates the political space where human rights can be exercised. On the other hand, the legal framework not only remains empty, but can also prove powerless, without the citizens’ active participation in the democratic process. In the recent few years, Polish citizens have been forced time and again to lead an unequal and rigged fight in defense of the rule of law. The situation in Poland shows that there can be no complacency about the democratic process. Citizens Take Over Europe believes that an important measure of this complacency is the unwillingness to or simply lack of interest in involving citizens in the decision-making process. The brave stance of Polish women, affirming their political subjectivity, reminds us of this basic truth. It should resonate loudly, especially with the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe in mind. Today, the future is being forged in the women’s fight for justice, dignity and inclusiveness beyond genders.
With the legal system allowing their torture, Polish women can rightly feel that they are no longer recognized as citizens of their own country. In these tragic circumstances, it is more important than ever that they are also citizens of the EU. They need to feel the full weight of European law behind them. It is the duty of the EU to take urgent action to that effect. Reproductive health, considered in terms of human rights issue, should become a priority and appropriate legislative solutions should be developed in order to effectively protect the EU citizens on this front.
“You’ll never be alone again” – women chant in unison across Polish cities, the largest and the smallest ones. The EU needs to join them in this chorus. Your solidarity and courage gives us hope; Europeans everywhere stand with you in this crucial fight.