WARSAW, Poland -- A commission dominated by hard-line Catholic senators approved a draft bill this week to ban abortion under any circumstances and to punish with up to two years in jail any woman who receives an abortion and any doctor who terminates a pregnancy.
At the same time, a revised Hippocratic oath accepted by Poland's Main Medical Board obliged new doctors to serve human life and health"from the moment of conception."
Following the introduction of the Roman Catholic catechism in state schools, these latest moves provide further evidence of increasing clericalism in Polish public life under the country's new, church-supported, Solidarity-led government.
According to news reports, the abortion bill bans termination of pregnancy across the board. When the mother's life is in danger, a doctor may decide to sacrifice the fetus, but this is categorically banned in the case of rape. Sen. Andrzej Kalicinski protested that "women's wombs could be made into incubators by force." But anti-abortionists said rape was "difficult to define."
The Senate commission upheld 6-2, with three abstentions, jail terms for the mother as well as the doctor performing an abortion.
At present, abortion is the main form of birth control in Roman Catholic Poland.
Before the bill can become law, it must be approved by the whole Senate, dominated by Catholics, and then by the lower and more powerful Sejm, where former Communists still hold an unrepresentative majority. But with about 40 vital economic bills still awaiting approval, it is unlikely that the abortion bill will find LTC slot on the agenda before the end of the parliamentary term.
Women's groups have already protested strongly. Eight feminist organizations signed an open letter to the Senate demanding rejection of the bill. And protesters marched yesterday in Warsaw, objecting to the imposition of Catholic morality on the whole country. "We don't want to replace one dictatorship with another," one woman said.