European Parliament expresses solidarity with Poland abortion protests

FILE PHOTO: People take part in a protest organized by the Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike) movement, following a court ruling imposing a near-total abortion ban, in Warsaw, Poland, November 18, 2020. Kuba Atys/Agencja Gazeta/via REUTERS

WARSAW (Reuters) – The European Parliament on Thursday accused Poland’s nationalist government of improperly influencing a court that imposed a near total ban on abortion, which it said showed that the rule of law had collapsed in Poland.

The EU parliament’s resolution, which passed with 455 votes for, 145 against and 71 abstentions, comes after right-wing governments in Poland and Hungary vetoed the EU budget and a COVID-19 recovery fund this month, after countries sought to tie the funds to adherence to the rule of law.

Since coming to power in 2015, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has clashed with the European Union over judiciary reforms, which the bloc says violate democratic standards. PiS has rejected such accusations.

Hundreds of thousands of Poles have taken to the street since an Oct. 22 Constitutional Tribunal ruling that sharply limited Poland’s already restrictive abortion laws.

The protests have seen a broader outpouring of anger at Poland’s nationalist rulers, with many criticising the judiciary reforms they say have allowed PiS to hand pick judges for its high courts to push through controversial decisions.

The motion from members of European Parliament “underlines that the aforementioned ruling is yet another example of the political takeover of the judiciary and the systemic collapse of the rule of law in Poland.”

The resolution also called for EU institutions to do more to support sexual and reproductive health rights across member states and to support grassroots and civil society groups that foster the rule of law.

Poland’s government has not yet published the court ruling, meaning it is not yet enforceable. PiS says the government is waiting for the court to provide a more detailed justification.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro criticised European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s proposal that Hungary and Poland go to the European Court of Justice over the EU budget, instead of blocking it with a veto.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Peter Graff

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