Student In Warsaw Lauds Abortion Ban Protest As End Of Poland’s ‘Era Of Quiet Women’

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By Maya Cygańska – We were quiet. We were patient. We weren’t demanding or in the way, we were minding our own business, obviously less important than men’s. Every now and then we would catch a glimpse of bold headlines screaming about yet another woman who lost her physical or mental health, sometimes even life, because of the present-day legislation and morality of so-called doctors. About raped girls aged ten or twelve forced to give birth, because we need more citizens to pay taxes. About women who wanted a child more than anything but with no choice as to whether to give birth or not were left with the agonizing experience of carrying an irreversibly damaged fetus that would live for several excruciatingly painful hours. These are horrors that happened only last year and received heavy news coverage, but how many failed to be heard?

I am 20 years old and have lived in Poland for 14 years. I never lived in a society where abortion on demand was legal. But my mother and grandmother did, and they instilled in me a feeling of  injustice. I will not accept anyone to ordain my uterus’s fate. Or my child’s, if ever I decide to have one. Or my own.

The 23rd of September marked the end of an era – the era of quiet women. What happened then awakened our wrath. A medieval, misogynic bill introducing a complete ban on abortion was accepted by the government for further adjustments, whereas a different bill, suggesting legal possibility of abortion on demand, was disposed of. We, Polish women, felt disposed of. And that was enough.

The 23rd of September marked the end of an era – the era of quiet women… We, Polish women, felt disposed of. And that was enough.

At first, the news rippled through social media, triggering minor protests on the 25th in most large Polish cities. During one of those gatherings someone screamed, “Let them feel our anger! Let us paralyze our country for a day, like our sisters from Iceland did in 1975!” The idea spread with an unprecedented pace and soon the Internet was bursting with tweets and posts about the planned protest. Wearing black was a symbol of grief – we were mourning our reproductive rights and freedom of choice.

Someone created a Facebook event and the number of participants skyrocketed. It reached nearly 100,000 on the big day. Countless companies declared their solidarity with the protesters, and even public institutions such as city councils went partially on strike. Businesses shut down for the day and cafes were run by male staff. In Warsaw, where I live, the strike took place mainly in the central part of the city, but in smaller towns it overpowered most of the streets.

I think that the outcome of the protest is more than just signalizing a turn in attitudes towards women’s rights in Poland – it is also the birth of a community of caring, independent, strong women.

Facebook groups created for improving communication about the protest are now teeming with comments on the current situation of the anti-abortion bill, personal thoughts shared by women who finally feel understood, and words of support. It is truly extraordinary that such a phenomenon took place in a traditionally conservative society, for it wasn’t until this September that women united against oppressive legislation.

I think that the outcome of the protest is more than just signalizing a turn in attitudes towards women’s rights in Poland – it is also the birth of a community of caring, independent, strong women.

Suddenly, we stood together as one, not afraid of being called “aggressive feminists”, receiving hate mail and disgusting comments from politicians. Yes, the very same politicians whom we chose to represent our needs and take care of our rights.

One of the phrases chanted during the protests was, “We shall not forget”. The next elections will prove we have a good memory. For now, we are organizing each other in groups, and I rest reassured that further tampering with women’s rights in Poland will not be tolerated.

We will fight back, for our wrath has been awakened.

Photo credit: lead image of #blackprotest in Poland courtesy of BLWSKi


About The Author

maya_polandMaya Cygańska is a veterinary student based in Warsaw, Poland. She is the Regional Representative for Europe in the field of Animal Welfare and actively involved in the animal rights movement.

Maya is a vegan, violinist and dog lover, although she tries not to be speciesist. She also enjoys hiking and swimming in lakes.

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