Thousands of women have taken to the streets across Poland for days in a row following a ruling on Thursday by the country’s constitutional tribunal that abortion for fetal abnormalities is unconstitutional, banning abortion for almost all cases in the deeply Catholic country.
The ruling means that abortions will only be allowed in instances of rape, incest or if there is a threat to the woman’s health or life, which account for only about 2 percent of all legal abortions in Poland in recent years, according to the Guardian.
1,074 out of the 1,100 legal abortions performed in Poland last year were on the grounds of fetal abnormalities, and the ruling effectively bans abortions in the country, according to the New York Times.
Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, and women are often forced to seek illegal abortions or travel abroad for the procedure. Women’s rights groups estimate that up to 200,000 abortions are performed illegally or abroad each year, according to the Guardian.
In the ruling, which cannot be appealed, the tribunal president, Julia Przyłębska, said that allowing for the abortion of fetuses that are malformed is “incompatible” with the country’s constitution.
She said that terminating a pregnancy based on the health of the fetus is “a directly forbidden form of discrimination” as the Polish Constitution guarantees a right to life, the New York Times reported.
The announcement was met with a wave of mass demonstrations across the country, as thousands of people flooded the streets to protest against the decision and the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS).
Protesters blocked off roads in about 50 cities on Monday and disrupted church services over the weekend.