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Protests erupt in Poland as near-total abortion ban takes effect

Protests erupt in Poland as near-total abortion ban takes effect
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Nationwide protests have broken out across Poland for the past two nights in response to a near-total ban on abortions.

Protests are taking place after a new restriction took effect following a ruling from a top court three months ago that stated it was unconstitutional to abort a congenitally damaged fetus, The Associated Press reports.

As the AP notes, fetal malformations were the cited cause for around 98 percent of legal abortions in Poland. 

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Women at the protests this week, led by women’s rights group Women’s Strike, reportedly said the new restriction made them not want to get pregnant at all.

“The state wants to further limit their rights, risk their lives, and condemn them to torture,” said Adam Bodnar, a top human rights official in Poland whose office is independent of the government, according to the AP.

With the new restriction taking effect, abortions can now only be performed in cases of rape or incest or if the life or health of the mother is at risk.

“Today is a terrible day for women and girls in Poland," Esther Major, a senior research adviser at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Major called the new restriction "the latest in a coordinated and systematic wave of attacks on women’s human rights by Polish lawmakers."

The AP reports that members of the Law and Justice Party, the ruling party in Poland that is aligned with the Roman Catholic Church, argued the latest restriction was put in place to prevent the abortion of fetuses with Down syndrome. Such abortions make up a large portion of abortions in Poland, the news outlet noted.