Protestors were socially distanced and wore masks at all times Linda Arroyo

Approximately 50 protestors, a majority of whom were Cambridge students, gathered at Parker’s Piece yesterday (25/10) to protest against the Polish government’s ban on abortion, issued on the 22nd October.  

The ban was announced last week after the Polish Supreme Court declared the procedure to be unconstitutional causing a storm of protests across Poland as well as abroad. A protest was led in Cambridge by the student body of the university. 

The protesters met at Parker’s Piece holding banners and chanting “Woman’s rights are humans rights”, “Abortion is a human right” and “My body my choice”.

One of the organisers and a speaker at the event, Olga , a 2nd year AMES student, explained why she decided to organise a strike in Cambridge: “I realised that protests and manifestations put on by Polish women and in solidarity with Polish women are incredibly important in spreading awareness of the issue and sparking conversation in places where it is negligible - especially in male dominated spaces.”

Protestors held signs saying "I am a woman, not a womb" and "abortion is a human right"Linda Arroyo

Her opinion stems from personal experiences, as she further describes: “After actively interacting with certain individuals who visibly delegate women’s rights to a secondary position within Polish politics infuriated me to no end. I felt weak and hopeless. In fact, I don’t think I would’ve taken it upon myself to organise the protest had I not gotten involved in a conversation dominated by Polish men on the topic of women’s rights and abortion. It must be understood that us women deserve the right to decide about our own body. People need to truly understand that - especially the government and Polish centre-right society.” 

She then continued: “I’ve felt powerless and passive for too long. Our government and its institutions have routinely been working to decimate the bodily autonomy of Polish women for the past four years and in all honesty, it can as no surprise to me when abortion laws in Poland were further restricted by the tribunal”. 

Another protester, Wiktoria, a final year International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme student in Cambridge, said: “Growing up in Poland as a woman was never easy. However, in a brutal way, it taught me that we've got to fight for our rights at all costs. I believe that no woman should be told whether she can or cannot make a decision about her own body. Any human, simply should be in control of their body and therefore their life. Women rights are human rights and the decision made by a politicised and corrupted court should not be the one in charge of my health. Today I'm standing with my fellow Polish sisters in defence of our rights and dignity as I do not agree to be subject to the barbarian law that has just been executed”. 

Wiktoria’s words on human rights were supported by yet another Cambridge student - Krystian, who is a 2nd year HSPS student. He highlights: “This is not just about abortion. This is a protest against our government’s continued attacks on anyone and anything that doesn’t conform with their vision of society. The Polish government has for the past five years been eliminating any voices of dissent in the courts, media and from civil society. This is about democracy and human rights.”

In 2016 protestors carried black umbrellas which were seen in the protest todayLinda Arroyo

Krystian added: “We have a government of right-wing fundamentalist in power that are brutally imposing their vision of society onto the rest of us.”

The Polish law on abortion was already one of the strictest in Europe. Up until October 22nd, the procedure was only available to those women for whom pregnancy was either a threat to their life or health or when conception was a result of rape or on the occasion of foetus impairment.  

The acceleration of the campaihn for women's rights in Poland started in September 2016 after the government rejected the liberalisation of abortion law and attempted to enforce an abortion ban. The government’s actions sparked a wave of protests across 147 polish towns and cities.

The 2016 protest attracted thousands of participants and was named Black Friday – with its symbol being the black umbrella which was also seen at yesterday’s protest.

The protest yesterday (25/10) adhered to social distancing guidelines and face covering rules.

The Cambridge protests joined a wave of demonstrations currently taking place in Poland as well as across Europe, for example in London, Paris and Amsterdam.