Gradual erosion of the Polish democratic norms

10 PM, November 18th: A loud It’s a War! reverberates in the heart of Warsaw. Banners with eight asterisks stretch over the crossing between Powstancow Square and Warecka Street. A group of 5 plainclothes officers enters the crowd, using truncheons to beat the protesters. Pepper spray is floating in the air when two of the provocateurs begin tossing flares on the street. Where just a moment ago was a crowd, now there is a woman - with a face covered in milk - screaming in pain: I cannot breathe. While paramedics are gathering around her, the people are running back and forth carrying physiological saline. There is no way out - the police trapped people in a kettle, cordoning the entire area. No one is allowed to go home without presenting their ID.

It was just another evening in Warsaw, where, for four weeks, the opposition to the currently ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) has been staging street demonstrations every day. Although triggered by a recent anti-abortion law, the protests are thought to encompass a myriad of breaches of law, ranging from the overhaul of the judicial system, to restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, and the persecution of minorities. To corner the opposition, PiS uses the rhetoric deepening the social schism, exposing an incomplete post-Soviet transition and grave abuse of human rights.


Since 1989, Poland has been regarded as a role model for other Warsaw Pact members that transformed into autocratic regimes. With its new democratic constitution and representative institutions, Poland set an example in developing a relationship between pro-European forces and the Catholic Church that cleared the Polish path for democratization. In exchange, the Clergymen maintained a tight grip over issues such as women’s reproductive rights. Consequently, Poland introduced one of the most repressive abortion policies in Europe. As the Soviet rule produced an authoritarian type of personality unable to think independently, the conservative attitude towards abortion policy has been preserved to this very day.

The idea of protesting lodged itself in the public consciousness when in 2016 a ban on abortions in almost all circumstances was proposed as a bill. It led to the formation of the All-Poland Women’s Strike (OSK), a women’s rights social movement calling for a large-scale protest. Polish women went out on the streets of big cities wearing black, ultimately inducing the parliament to defer the bill. Although, since then, the issue of women’s reproductive rights remained a prompt for many to take to the streets, no regulation passed by the government engendered such social discontent Poland has seen since the court’s ruling on October 22nd. The latest court’s decision ruled the abortions for fetal defects unconstitutional. As 97.6 percent of abortions were performed last year in Poland due to that circumstance, termination of pregnancy is not to become less common but instead more life-threatening.


The ruling has been widely viewed as unlawful: the Constitutional Tribunal, a PiS-controlled body that lost its independence following the judiciary reforms condemned by the European Commission, is considered to be violating the fundamental women’s rights. The right to safe and legal abortion remains within the sphere of human rights that is highly adherent to the rule of law the EU countries have a reputation for upholdi