Anna Grzymala-Busse

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‘In Poland, an already restrictive abortion law was made draconian in 2020.’ A demonstrator in Warsaw protests against the constitutional court’s abortion law ruling, November 2020.’ Photograph: Omar Marques/Getty Images

Abortion access is about to be severely curtailed or cut off for millions of women in the United States following the supreme court’s decision to abolish the constitutional protections for the termination of pregnancy established by the landmark Roe v Wade case 50 years ago.

The decision allows state legislatures to ban abortion and half are now likely to limit access.

Despite the condemnation from many European leaders, not all EU states have decriminalised abortion. Malta retains a total ban. And in Poland, an already restrictive law was made draconian in 2020. Medical personnel now face lengthy prison sentences for providing or procuring an abortion and women have died as a result.…  Seguir leyendo »

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks with the media as he arrives for a European Union summit in Brussels. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo/AP)

Poland and the European Union are in a constitutional standoff, which may lead to the destruction of the E.U. as we know it. They are on a collision course over whether Poland has to comply with E.U. law, as interpreted by the Court of Justice of the European Union. If Poland prevails and the E.U. backs down, then the E.U.’s fundamental legal order will be undermined. So what happened?

Poland’s government has been eroding democracy

The current crisis came to head on July 15, when the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the Disciplinary Chamber — a body that has undermined judicial independence in Poland — was incompatible with E.U.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angered women’s rights activists and their supporters confront police and a far-right group on the fifth day of their nationwide protests against a recent court ruling that tightened Poland’s restrictive abortion law in Warsaw on Monday. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Widespread protests have roiled Poland since Thursday, after the government imposed tighter restrictions on abortion. Hundreds of thousands are marching through streets, blocking traffic, holding sit-ins in churches, and amassing in front of the residences of high-ranking clergy. Protesters have called for a nationwide strike on Wednesday.

Here’s what sparked the protests. The conservative populist government of the Law and Justice (PiS) party eliminated grave fetal defects as a justification for obtaining an abortion. These cases constitute 98 percent of legal abortions in Poland.

Poland has severe restrictions on abortion

Since 1993, Poland’s restrictive abortion law allowed for abortions in three circumstances: rape or incest, grave fetal defects or threat to the life of the mother.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters are watched by police in Wroclaw, Poland, on Thursday during a march against the upcoming presidential election. (Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg News)

A political crisis is rocking Poland over the presidential elections scheduled for Sunday. Poland is under lockdown to limit infection during the coronavirus pandemic. In-person balloting would violate distancing orders. Opposition candidates for the presidency have been unable to campaign, even as incumbent President Andrzej Duda dominates media coverage. Opinion polls suggested that fewer than one-third of voters planned to vote under these conditions.

Not surprisingly, the opposition called for the elections to be delayed. The government refused.

The solution? The governing Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc, or PiS) proposed switching to mail-in postal voting. The party introduced a bill in Parliament on April 6, about a month before the election.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Nov. 10, 1989, East Berliners get help from West Berliners as they climb the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate. (Jockel Finck/AP)

The Berlin Wall — both a powerful symbol and a physical barrier that divided the communist East and the democratic West after 1961 — came down 30 years ago this week. Footage of young Germans hammering away at the hated wall dividing communist and Western Europe, then dancing triumphantly at the Brandenburg Gate, were just some of the stirring images of that seemingly miraculous year.

Communism collapsed first in Eastern Europe in 1989-1990 and then in the Soviet Union in 1991.

In short order, the Soviet Union dissolved, as did Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Germany reunified. Governments throughout the region held free elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, left, hands new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki the document of his appointment as head of government at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Dec. 11. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

The Polish  Law and Justice Party (PiS) government has a new prime minister: Mateusz Morawiecki. In a particularly Polish political twist, the government of Beata Szydło survived a vote of no confidence on the morning of Dec. 7 — only to have Szydło summarily resign later that day.

So what happened, and what does it mean?

Here are five things you need to know.

1. The change in prime minister is mainly symbolic

Mateusz Morawiecki, the new prime minister, is considered the younger, sophisticated and worldly face of the PiS government. Morawiecki was chosen because he appears more credible to the international financial and political community. …  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators hold Polish and E.U. flags during a protest outside the parliament building in Warsaw on Dec. 17. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Poland is gripped by its most severe constitutional crisis since the Communist regime declared martial law in 1981, with protesters — both inside parliament and outside in the freezing streets — accusing the ruling party of threatening democracy.

Law and Justice (PiS), the party in power, has roots in the dissident trade union Solidarity, which helped bring down the Communist regime. But it has this in common with the authoritarian Communist PZPR, which ruled Poland between 1948 and 1989: It occupies an absolute majority of seats in the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish Parliament. Unlike the PZPR, it was elected in free and fair elections.…  Seguir leyendo »