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Pro-choice activists stage protests in Polish churches after abortion ban

by Press Association

Women's rights activists in Poland have staged protests during Sunday church services in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation against a tightening of the nation's abortion law.

In the fourth straight day of protests, activists held up banners during Masses in some churches.

A young woman in one Warsaw church stood near the altar with a sign that said: "Let's pray for the right to abortion."

An LGBT rights group, Grupa Stonewall, posted a video showing people protesting in a church in the western Polish city of Poznan, chanting "we've had enough".

Churchgoers replied by chanting "barbarians".

It follows a ruling on Thursday by Poland's constitutional court that declared that aborting foetuses with congenital defects is unconstitutional.

Poland already had one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws and the ruling will result in a near-complete ban on abortion.

Women's Strike, the organiser of the protests, argues forcing women to give birth to foetuses with severe defects will result in unnecessary physical and mental suffering.

The organisation vowed more protests in the coming week, including blockades of cities on Monday, a nationwide strike by women on Wednesday and street protests on Friday.

On Sunday, a banner with the slogan "Women's Hell" was hung on a church fence in Otwock, a town near Warsaw.

The activists also created posters of a crucified pregnant woman intended for hanging outside churches, according to media reports, though it was not immediately clear how many were hung.

Thursday's ruling came as Poland's nationalist conservative ruling party has politicised the courts - including the Constitutional Tribunal.

Last week, the president swore in a new education minister who has said LGBT people are not equal to "normal people", has argued in support of corporal punishment and said women's key purpose in life is to have children.

Health Ministry figures show 1,110 legal abortions were carried out in Poland in 2019, mostly because of foetal defects.

The only other legal cases remaining for abortion are rape or incest or if the pregnancy threatens the woman's life or health.

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