The Argentine march was driven by those who oppose the bill on the decriminalization of abortion recently sent to Congress by President Alberto Fernández.
Marching under the hashtags “Save2Lives” or “TheBlueMajority”-the latter alluding to the color of the clothes or even simple cardboard cutouts of that shade with which members of the “ProLife” movement identify themselves-, the participants, in a peaceful demonstration, carried banners with slogans such as: “You shall not kill, Exodus 20:13”, “Fighting for the voiceless” or “Aborting your kind does not empower you”. The call, as reported by La Derecha Diario, was supported by civil organizations grouped through Unidad Provida, as well as especially by the Argentine Episcopal Conference and the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches of the Argentine Republic (Aciera).
Additionally, some local “celebrities” were present at the event, including the economist Javier Milei and former presidential candidate Juan José Gómez Centurión, as well as journalist Viviana Canosa, and even controversial former Kirchnerist Secretary of Commerce Guillermo Moreno, who, curiously enough, three years ago, in a radio interview with Futurock FM, had openly advocated for “a woman’s right to decide,” but seems to have changed his mind.
“A baby is a person separated from its mother from the moment of conception,” told to La Nación Damir Vladusic, an event organizer and member of the Catholic community of Perpetuo Socorro in Palermo who participated in the mobilization.
The lawyer Memé Mocoso, from the Catholic NGO Portal de Belén, considered that “the president forces the bill at the end of a traumatic year and makes it impossible to participate due to this express treatment.” And she added, “The pledge was to unite all Argentines, not to divide them and favor a fanatical elite that responds to the interests of a powerful industry such as the abortion one and laboratories.”
Meanwhile, in Poland
As these mobilizations were carried out in the urban centers of Argentina, similar mobilizations were taking place in Poland, but in the opposite direction.
In fact, Poland already had one of the most restrictive legislations in all of Europe concerning abortion, authorized only in a handful of cases: risk of life for the mother, rape, incest, and genetic malformations. And according to official figures, 97% of abortions registered in that European country (out of a total of 1100 performed last year) were performed based on the latter cause, which has just been eliminated de facto by the Constitutional Court decision.
The ruling of the judicial body, dated October 22, declared that abortion in cases of fetal malformation is unconstitutional, immediately sparking off a wave of demonstrations of repudiation that has spread through the country, and notably, with unusual force, precisely in those dominated by the ruling party.
By the way, this judicial backtracking on a regulation in force since 1993 not only motivated a wave of rejections and protests that does not seem to stop: the decision has also generated additional adverse effects for the regime of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who has been leading the destinies of the Central European nation on behalf of the governing coalition, United Right, since 2015.
As expected, the European Parliament, in a resolution that counted 455 votes in favor, 145 against, and 71 abstentions, condemned the recent decision of the Polish Court. It is striking the judges have not realized the law was “unconstitutional” before, taking into account its 27 years of uninterrupted application.
In addition, the Parliament noted that the ruling was issued by a court whose judges were elected precisely by politicians from the conservative coalition that governs Poland, which essentially implies “a systemic collapse of the rule of law.”
According to the European Parliament, the sentence issued by the Polish Constitutional Court eliminating the possibility of abortion due to fetal malformations “was pronounced by judges elected by politicians from the coalition led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, on whom they are totally dependent,” reported EFE.
As the New York Times points out, 14 of the 15 judges on that court have been elected by the ruling party.
In this vein, one can surmise that identical observations will also be made in the near future in the United States, where last year, according to Telam, “21 states, in open defiance of constitutional law, restricted access to abortion (legal termination of pregnancy) in order to force the Supreme Court to pronounce a ruling. And now, with the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett just before the election, the conservative majority has six justices out of nine, putting the famous 1973 “Roe v. Wade” leading case at risk of reversal similar to that in Poland.
The countries that oppose abortion
Of course, the ruling conservative coalition in Poland is not alone in its crusade.
There are still five nations in the world that do not admit abortion under any circumstances: the Vatican, of course, but also Malta, Andorra, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Venezuela also stands out for its restrictive legislation, admitting it only in case of risk to the mother’s life, as does Paraguay.
More specifically, as far as abortion due to genetic malformations is concerned, there are 38 African and 21 Asian countries whose regulations, although laxer in other hypotheses, do not recognize its legal status either. And among Latin Americans, there are another 20. But in Europe, the situation is quite different.
Ninety-five per cent of European women of reproductive age live in countries that allow abortion on a simple request basis or a wide range of grounds, with only certain temporary variations in the gestational age at which it can be performed. As for the concept of fetal malformation, there are also specific variations: some legislations stipulate the need for the anomalies to make survival directly unviable outside the mother’s womb. For others, it is sufficient for the embryos to exhibit severe anomalies of a permanent nature, and others provide even greater scope.
At the other end of the spectrum
In contrast to prohibitive or restrictive legislation, it should be noted that today, in no less than forty-five countries, abortion is now entirely free, on mere demand, without even the need for medical or social justification. In the Americas, this is the case in Uruguay, Canada, and -at least for now- also in the United States. To these, we can add – and we cite only a few examples so as not to burden the reader with the complete list – Bahrain, Singapore, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Croatia, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, and of course, Australia and New Zealand.
As far as the authorization of abortion in case of a fetal defect is concerned, the cause is present in the legislation of 11 countries in Africa, 13 in the Americas, 15 in Asia, and as far as Europe is concerned, absolutely in all of them, except, as we said, Andorra, Malta, and the Vatican, (which do not admit abortion under any circumstances), as well as Liechtenstein, San Marino, and the Principality of Monaco. Poland apparently aspires to join this select club.
Other contextual factors
However, perhaps Poland’s protests should also be interpreted in a broader context. Perhaps the reversal of abortion regulations has been a trigger, and other substantial issues are hidden beneath its surface. This is an indication of the growing weariness of part of the population about the influence of the church on state policies. So much so that sociologist Inga Koralewska points out in a conversation with La Nación, “politicians – even those on the left – avoid addressing the issue for fear that the church will mobilize voters against them.”
Perceived at the time as the leader of the democratic opposition in the face of left-wing totalitarianism and a powerful force for unity for the Poles in the most ominous days of communist rule, the church no longer enjoys the popular support it had at that time. “These people are fed up with the interference of the Church -allied with the state- in their private affairs and publicly express their indignation,” Koralewska adds.
The European Union’s conditionality
In addition to the rebellion of its inhabitants over the measure, a second very important factor is one at the international level. The Polish government’s decision to limit abortions due to congenital malformations may directly affect its access to European common funds to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
This is because the implementation of the community budget for the period 2021-2027 requires compliance with “conditionality” factors. That is, in order to qualify as potential beneficiaries of such budgetary aid, member countries must respect the principles of the rule of law. In this sense, the declaration signed by the majority of the pan-European body, affirming that the modifications to the abortion regime “are contrary to the principle of non-regression under international human rights law” puts the United Right in a tough spot. Of course, its deputies (as well as those of the also conservative Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary) have resisted accepting such a “conditionality” clause, although for different reasons since in Hungary abortion is administered on demand.
At the moment, between the pressure from the demonstrations all over Poland, on the one hand, and the international condemnation on the other, the truth is that the Polish government has left the question of abortion due to genetic malformations in a “legal limbo.” More than a month has passed and the ruling has not been published yet. “This situation should not be prolonged because it generates legal uncertainty, especially for the medical community that finds itself in situations that it does not know how to deal with,” explains lawyer Adam Krzywon.
On both sides of the Atlantic
Just as it happened a few years ago with the issue of divorce -and the consequent prophecy about the disintegration of the traditional family-, or as it happens in these times with the topics of marriage between same-sex couples or single-parent adoption, the dilemma raised by the Polish and Argentine street demonstrations last Saturday is today a matter of heated conflict. And it will probably continue to be so with its correlative legislative and judicial marches and countermarches in the years to come.
Social media, where these days it is possible to find phrases that go from “they don’t take into account the rights of women” to “what a pity they didn’t abort you” as an answer, show a degree of social virulence that perhaps would deserve a prudent call for serenity.
As Infobae reports, on Monday, November 30, a group of anti-abortion activists attacked Argentinian Congressman José Luis Ramón near the Congress’ building: “Not only did they insult him, but one of the women hit him with a poster. Five days ago, Representative Facundo Suárez Lastra was also insulted by a group of anti-abortion activists who gathered at his door.”
Substituting the inclination towards insulting adjectives for an honest and non-fallacious argument would be truly desirable on both sides of the ocean.