On the eve of the vote to decriminalize abortion in Argentina, we publish our letter we’ve sent to the Members of Argentine Senate in July
Warsaw, 1 July 2018
Distinguished Members of Argentine Senate,
On behalf of the signatories of this letter, all representing civil society in Poland, we respectfully ask you to read this letter before deciding on the draft bill on abortion.
“The law kills”, wrote in his essay “Women’s Hell” Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, a great Polish humanist who fought for women’s rights, including the legalization of abortion for social reasons. Today, such a decision which determines the life or death of women is in your hands. Femicide is not only killing with a knife or a gun. Please consider this when you vote.
We write these words on the eve of yet another mass protest of Polish women, who have been deprived of the right to decide on their bodies and their fates. We would like also to demonstrate with reference to the Polish history that banning legal, safe and free abortion sends them back to hell. But hell for women means the beginning of hell for all because what starts with restriction of freedom for women ends with restriction of freedom for all and with dismantling of democracy in Poland.
The legalization of abortion for social reasons was adopted in Poland in 1956, after the death of Stalin. The declaration of a woman about her difficult life situation became a sufficient reason for having a legal abortion. The deputies voted “yes” persuaded by the figures : 300 000 illegal abortions carried out by the “angel makers”, 80.000 women per year admitted to hospital after a clandestine abortion, of which 2% died. Thanks to the adopted law, Polish women have benefited from the right to free choice and self-determination for 36 years.
In 1989, the famous democratic transition took place in Poland and in the region. The Catholic Church presented a heavy bill for its undeniable role in the downfall of the so-called communist regime. Polish women have paid for this change with their health and their lives. A very restrictive anti-abortion law (legal only in case of danger to the health and life of women, serious malformations of the fetus and if pregnancy is the result of a criminal act) was passed in 1993 in violation of the fundamental principles of democracy. An initiative of citizens who collected 1.5 million signatures calling for a referendum on the issue was simply overlooked.
But practice shows that even in the cases when abortion is deemed lawful, doctors are unwilling to proceed for fear of prosecution. The law become a fiction, causing untold suffering of women or of children born with severe malformations. As in the case of Agata Lamczak who died of sepsis because doctors refused her a therapy under pretext that it could have been harmful to the fetus. A description of the scene where her mother and her companion begged on their knees physicians to intervene recalls the reality of past centuries. Another Agata, a 14-year old pregnant girl, was denied the lawful abortion and finally aborted the last day of the statutory limitation period after the strong protests of feminist associations. Or Alicja Tysiąc who was refused medical abortion being at a high risk of blindness. Or a woman who was forced to give birth to a non-viable child, virtually without a brain and born only to die after long hours of sufferings. The list is endless.
Also, once restrictions start, they do not stop easily. In 2016, after the electoral victory of the Law and Justice party, strongly supported by the Catholic Church, yet another invoice paid in the currency “women’s rights” was issued: the law of total ban on abortion with criminalization of women, medical staff etc. At the same time the law proposed by the committee “Let’s save women” was rejected without parliamentary discussions. It provoked a real fury of women. On 3 October 2016, dubbed “Black Monday,” thousands of women, dressed in black as a sign of mourning for their rights, have gone on strike in protest, forcing the government to abandon the plan. It was the beginning of the Polish Women’s Strike and of the awakening of Polish women in general. Another huge protest named „Black Friday” took place on 23 March 2018 and on 2 July we take to the streets again because of another bill imposing further restriction of the current anti-abortion law.
Living in a country where women’s voice about their basic reproductive rights was and is ignored, we join and support Argentine women’s struggle for legal, safe and free abortion.
The thing that connects us the most is the voice & representation issue. For us, the major quote from the Argentine Chamber of Deputies Debate, when the #AbortoLegal law was debated and voted, was this one: „can you hear it? There is your mandate, outside! Listen to their voices!”. This is the voice of the sovereign people calling for representation of all, including women, to stop pretending that banning abortion actually works. The voice that cries out the abortion ban’s real results, which are illegal procedures, unsafe abortions, health complications and women dying. The voice that says that decision about abortion is and always will be a personal decision to make, no matter how many barriers and bans will be established. The voice that should no longer be ignored.
What is even more important is that the people have already decided. Gathering on the streets, standing firmly on the side of Argentine women. This is the subtle issue of decision and power: you are the ones holding the power. But the decision how that power should be used, is already made – within the fearless women’s movement, within the civic protest against hypocrisy and women’s suffering and deaths, and last but not least – within the lower chamber of the Argentine Congress.
We appeal to you to listen to the Argentine women’s voice. To your sovereign’s voice. To use your power to execute the decision that is already out there.
We wait with hope for your vote that can bring a positive change in lives of women not only in Argentine and in the region but also in Poland.
Ogólnopolski Strajk Kobiet (Polish Women’s Strike)
Warszawski Strajk Kobiet (Warsaw Women’s Strike)
Federacja na rzecz Kobiet I Planowania Rodziny (Federation for Women and Family Planning)
Fundacja im. Izabeli Jarugi Nowackiej (Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka Foundation)
Stowarzyszenie PRO FEMINA (Association Pro Femina)
Stowarzyszenie Dziewuchy Berlin [Polish Women (Dziewuchy) Berlin]
Partia Inicjatywa Feministyczna (Feminist Initiative Party)
Fundacja Transfuzja (Foundation Transfusion)
Stowarzyszenie Stop Stereotypom (Association Stop Stereotypes)
Fundacja Wolność od Religii (Foundation Freedom from Religion)
Fundacja im. Kazimierza Łyszczyńskiego (Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation)
Stowarzyszenie Democracy is OK