In October and November 2020, Poland saw its biggest protests since the fall of its communist regime 30 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of women marched in defiance of a new court ruling that would outlaw abortions under almost any circumstance.
Poland has long had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. But in 2015, the right-wing party Law and Justice (PiS) came to power, and promptly started trying to limit abortion access in the country even further. In 2016, they attempted to pass a total ban. They failed.
But in 2020, at the ruling party’s request, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that almost all abortions were illegal. They did so because Law and Justice had spent the previous few years degrading the court’s independence and turning it into an arm of the party. The protests began immediately, partly because of the ruling itself but also because of what it represents: the risk of losing not only reproductive rights but the country’s democratic institutions.
To understand why this ruling has driven so many into the streets, and why it threatens Poland’s democracy, watch the video above.