I’m pretty sure that the majority of you are familiar with the current struggle in Poland with regard to the total abortion ban and may already wonder why I, a gender and social movements researcher, haven’t written about it on my blog so far. The main reason is that the problem is extremely complex and an analysis of the whole spectrum of initiatives, discourses and actors involved in this struggle is impossible to perform in one (user-friendly) blog post. Therefore, after weeks of wondering how to frame the problem, I decided to divide the story into pieces and elaborate on particular issues in separate posts. So today, please enjoy the pilot of this fascinating series, which consists of a very short summary of the 2016 events and an introduction of one of the actors I had a chance to write a paper on back in 2010.
As you might have heard, the AD 2016 battle started in spring when the organisation Pro- Prawo do Zycia (Pro- Right for Life), one of the most recognisable representatives of the Polish anti-choice social movement, launched the campaign Stop aborcji for a total ban of abortion in Poland and started collecting signatures under the new legislation project. Within several weeks the organisation’s members and their supporters collected 450 000 signatures under the proposal and submitted it to the Polish Parliament. Simultaneously, the vivacious mobilisation of feminist and women’s initiatives, which in this particular case can be defined as the Pro Prawo do Zycia countermovement (Meyer& Staggenborg 1996), began, and “a loosely coupled tango for mobilization and demobilization” (Zald&Useem 1987: 247) was initiated again. One of the first steps of the dance was the emergence of the Dziewuchy Dziewuchom (Gals for Gals) initiative. This informal initiative started as a spontaneously organised Facebook group and within months had transformed into a community of 100 000 members with around 40 reginal groups. Among DD supporters, one can find both feminists fighting for the total liberalisation of abortion law in Poland, but also thousands of women who have never defined themselves as feminists but who do not agree with the changes in the current law. The liberalisation of abortion law, however, has become an important claim in the campaign Ratujmy kobiety (Lets save women), launched by feminist groups and some left-wing politicians and resulting in the collection of over 160 000 signatures for a new legislation proposal. The proposal was submitted to the Parliament as well, and in September MPs needed to vote for the proceedings or reject both civil proposals. Unsurprisingly, the Stop aborcji proposal proceeded to further consideration, while the Ratujmy kobiety proposal was rejected during its first reading. Surprisingly for many sceptics, however, in response to this particular decision hundreds of thousands of women (and some men as well) took part in the #czarnyprotest initiative (#blackprotest), which started with wearing black clothes and resulted in the organisation of a Polish women’s strike (#blackmonday). The strike took place on October 3rd in dozens of Polish cities – starting from Warsaw but ending with a few thousand citizens’ cities across the country. It was one of the largest mobilisations of Polish society since the emergence of the Solidarnosc movement. According to data gathered by the Razem party (one of the strike’s organisers), the manifestations took place in 142 locations (in Poland plus several abroad) and gathered around 150 000 participants (Kubisa 2016). In their reaction to this mass protest, the Polish Parliament rejected STOP aborcji’s proposal and… proposed a new one (Za zyciem – Pro Life), slightly different to the previous one but not less radical in terms of women’s rights restriction. The new proposal’sintroduction resulted in the organisation of the second mass #blackprotest on October 24th. In spite of that however, the lower house of Parliament approves the now proposal on this very day…
As already mentioned, one of the main players on the anti-choice side is the Pro- Prawo do Zycia foundation. One of its leaders is an activist I interviewed in 2010 while taking part in the international research project on European new social movements Europe Rebelle, Paris: L’Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, Institut Hannah Arendt. During the project, together with Konrad Pedziwiatr, I investigated two contemporary social movements in Poland: the LGBTQ movement and the anti-choice movement, which at that time, not yet quite aware of the power of language, we called the pro-life movement. One of the project’s outcomes was a research paper consisting of a) an analysis of Polish anti-choice mobilisation and b) a profile of one of its actors. Consequently, the first part is an overview of historical mobilisation regarding abortion legislation, a short description of the legislation that is (still) in force right now and an analysis of the contemporary movement with regard to its structure, values, goals, methods of acting and major initiatives. The second part is a reconstruction of the activist’s biography and an analysis of the factors that led him to this particular type of social activism.
I hope I have managed to encourage you to read the paper and to follow the next episodes of the story in the (hopefully) very near future.