WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Thousands of Poles, mostly women, marched through Warsaw and other Polish cities Tuesday to demand greater reproductive rights and protest what they see as discrimination by the conservative government.
The demonstrations came on the first anniversary of a massive so-called “Black Protest” by women dressed in black that stopped a plan in parliament for a total ban on abortion.
Participants said that despite last year’s victory their battle isn’t over, noting that abortion remains illegal in almost all cases in Poland. They accused the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo of taking other steps that they say are bad for women, including a new regulation that requires women to have a doctor’s prescription to buy morning-after pills, no longer allowing them to be sold over the counter.
“Beata, women will overthrow your government,” they shouted, using a phrase that rhymes in Polish.
They also protested efforts by the pro-Catholic government to oppose in-vitro fertilization.
“They are taking away more and more of our rights,” said Krystyna Cichecka, a 52-year-old protester in Warsaw. “My state is turning into a religious state and I don’t want that.”
Organizers also collected signatures for a petition calling for the abortion law to be liberalized.
A year ago it rained during the protests, with large groups of women under umbrellas becoming the key image of that movement. On Tuesday it rained again, and again women marched holding umbrellas, while organizers declared that women would not fold up their umbrellas.
Poland’s conservative government is popular with many Poles, including church-goers, people in small town and families who have benefited from new welfare subsidies, but it has sparked multiple protests by liberal Poles who see an erosion of their democratic rights.
A small counterprotest by people opposed to abortion rights also took place in Warsaw.
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