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Poland takes step towards stricter abortion law


Warsaw (AFP)

Polish lawmakers Monday voiced support for a ban on abortions in the event of foetal abnormality, paving the way for further restrictions for women in the mainly Catholic nation that already has some of Europe's strictest termination laws.

Sixteen members of parliament's justice and human rights commission voted in favour of a ban, versus nine against.

The measure now needs to be studied by a second commission before being sent to a vote in Poland's rightwing-dominated parliament.

"This isn't just a text. This law concerns the lives of three human beings every day," said Kaja Godek of the Stop Abortion lobby group that tabled the measure.

According to Godek, an estimated 1,046 terminations, or 96 percent of all legal abortions in Poland in 2016, were on malformed foetuses.

If passed into law, terminations will only be legal in the event of a risk to the life of the mother or for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.

The contentious issue has seen numerous protests, the latest on Sunday when pro-choice activists gathered outside the parliament in Warsaw.

President Andrzej Duda, who is close to the Catholic Church, vowed to sign the initiative into law if adopted "in order to abolish the right to kill children with Down syndrome".

The proposal is less restrictive than one scrapped after tens of thousands of women dressed in black protested across the country in 2016.

Feminist organisations argue that the restrictive laws don't deter Polish women from having abortions, but simply force them into illegal terminations -- thought to number between 80,000-130,000 a year -- usually in neighbouring countries.

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