Sunday 28 January 2024

Catholic church criticises new Polish government’s abortion and contraception plans

The Catholic church has criticised proposals by Poland’s new ruling coalition to liberalise the abortion law and restore prescription-free access to the morning-after pill.

The spokesman for the Polish Episcopal Conference (KEP), the central organ of the Catholic church in Poland, says that such policies will “bring death” while the KEP’s president warns that “one must never comply with…laws that allow the direct murder of innocent human beings”.

This week, Civic Coalition (KO), the largest group in Poland’s ruling coalition, submitted a bill to parliament to introduce abortion on demand. That would not only end the current near-total ban on abortion – which was introduced in 2021 with the support of the church – but establish a more liberal law than existed before.

Meanwhile, the government as a whole approved legislation to allow over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. That would reverse a 2017 decision by the former conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government to make Poland one of only two EU countries in which a prescription is required.

In response, KEP spokesman Leszek Gęsiak yesterday declared that the two proposed bills are “devastating”.

“The bills regarding abortion and prescription-free access to the morning-after pill…bring death under the guise of euphemistic-sounding slogans, because human life begins at conception,” said Gęsiak.

“There will never be any support from the church for such actions,” he continued. “Abortion is a serious offence against human life…[and] human life is not a private matter. A person does not have the right to decide about the life or death of another person. Taking someone’s life can never be called progress or modernity.”

When asked about Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s remarks this week that the morning-after pill only prevents fertilisation and does not cause abortion, Gęsiak rejected that claim. He referred to the opinion of priest and bioethicist Piotr Kieniewicz, who says that the pill can also cause early-stage abortion.

Today, the KEP’s president, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, released a further statement criticising the proposals to expand access to abortion.

Quoting from Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, Gądecki wrote that “laws authorising the direct murder of innocent human beings through abortion…are radically contrary…to the common good and are therefore completely devoid of real legal force…[and] cease to be real, morally binding law”.

“One must never comply with” such laws even if they are introduced democratically, continued the archbishop’s statement, again quoting the former pope.

“When a parliamentary or social majority decides that the killing of unborn human life is legally permissible, even under certain conditions, is it not thereby making a ‘tyrannical’ decision towards the weakest and most defenceless human being?”

Opinion polls show that a large majority of the Polish public want to end the current near-total ban on abortion.

However, there are divisions – both in public opinion and within the ruling coalition – about whether that should involve returning to the previous abortion law, which was already one of the strictest in Europe, or going further and introducing abortion on demand.

The Catholic church in Poland has faced criticism in recent years for its involvement in political issues, in particular abortion, and for its close relationship with the former PiS government.