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Pro-choice Poles protest move towards tighter abortion control

© AFP | Current legislation, passed in 1993, bans all abortions except in cases of rape or incest, if the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother or if the foetus is severely deformed

WARSAW (AFP) - 

Around 2,000 women gathered Saturday in front of the Polish parliament after lawmakers signalled they may further tighten access to abortions in the mainly Catholic country.

MPs on Wednesday voted down one draft bill that would have liberalised the law while also sending for further consideration a separate proposal to prohibit the procedure for foetuses with deformities, which critics say would amount to a near-total abortion ban.

Protesters braved the cold weather to express their discontent, with some carrying banners reading "Shame!" and "Women will die without abortions".

"The women whose rights and freedoms are being violated today have been left to face this problem alone," said Anna Karaszewska from the "Let's Save Women 2017" pressure group.

"The politicians lied to us."

Current legislation, passed in 1993, bans all abortions except in cases of rape or incest, if the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother or if the foetus is severely deformed.

The ruling right-wing PiS party, in power since 2015, has already put an end to public funding for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and made the morning-after pill prescription-only.

"The PiS is pushing its own barbaric agenda and opposition politicians are scared of their own shadow," said Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak, a member of the leftist Razem ("Together") party.

According to the Federation for Women and Family Planning, only 47 Polish hospitals carried out legal abortions in 2016, or 10 percent of all of the authorised establishments.

© 2018 AFP