Exeter students took part in a demonstration on Monday to show support for Polish women who are striking against new anti-abortion law proposals.
Co-organised by the Feminist and Polish Societies, roughly fifty students wore black in imitation of the #BlackProtest movement in Poland. The mostly female students gathered on the Forum piazza and listened to speeches from committee members of both societies.
The Exeter demonstration was one of a series that occurred across British university campuses on Monday, with large turnouts reported in Edinburgh, Newcastle and London.
Black Monday, as the strike has become known, is a movement against changes to abortion laws in Poland being proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS). Under the current compromise agreed in 1993, abortions are illegal in Poland except when a woman’s life is at risk, the pregnancy is the result of a rape or incest or if the fetus is irreparably damaged during pregnancy.
“this law will not stop abortion…It will just push people into back streets, into overdoses, and into picking up coat hangers.”
The new proposal, brought by an anti-abortion citizens initiative, would outlaw abortions entirely in Poland and introduce prison sentences for both women having an abortion, and doctors carrying out the operation.
On Monday, in protest of the new “Stop Abortion” law that will be put forward in Poland on Wednesday, women across Poland refused to go to work; shutting down schools, universities and government offices across the country. In Warsaw, a demonstration attracted thousands, with slogans reading “A Government is not like a pregnancy – it can be terminated”.
Feminist Society president Kate Byard, who made a speech at the Exeter demonstration, said:
“The irony is that this law will not stop abortion. It will not stop people from obtaining abortions. It will just push people into back streets, into overdoses, and into picking up coat hangers.
“Abortion has always and always will exist, only now it will exist in Poland in unsafe, unsterile, and non-medical environments.”
She went on to describe the turnout at the demonstration as “massively reassuring”.
A recent Ipsos poll found only 11% popular support in Poland for further restrictions on abortions.