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Poland's PM defends abortion ruling, condemns protests

A protester with a sign of the women's rights campaign joins others on the fifth day of nationwide protests against recent court ruling that tightened Poland's restrictive abortion law, in Warsaw, Poland, on Oct. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Poland's prime minister on Tuesday defended the tightening of the country's abortion law and condemned massive nationwide protests led by women's rights activists, saying they shouldn't be happening amid heightened coronavirus restrictions and decrying "acts of aggression."

    The country's top court on Thursday ruled that abortions due to fetal congenital defects are unconstitutional. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki responded to the five days of massive protests that have followed, and tensions also erupted in parliament on Tuesday.

    Parliament's speaker called guards to protect the conservative governing party's leader, Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, from angry opposition lawmakers. Speaker Ryszard Telecki, a close ally of Kaczynski, caused more anger by likening the red lightning symbol of the protests to the runes of Nazi Germany's brutal SS.

    On Monday, thousands of protesters led by women's rights activists blocked traffic for hours in most cities and also gathered outside churches, chanting obscenities against Poland's influential Catholic Church leaders, who condemn abortions. They called for the women to have the right of choice.

    "In order to have the freedom of choice you first must be alive," Morawiecki, whose government backs tight restrictions, said in a statement defending the court's ruling.

    Morawiecki added that "the situations that we are seeing in the streets and which amount to acts of aggression, vandalism, attacks, are absolutely inadmissible, should not be taking place at all."

    The prime minister urged everyone to observe restrictions that ban gatherings of more than five people in an effort to fight a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, which hit a new high of some 16,300 new confirmed cases Tuesday.

    The Constitutional Tribunal's ruling on Thursday tightened what was already one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws. When it takes effect, which is expected with its official publication in the coming days or weeks, abortion will be permitted only when a pregnancy threatens the woman's health or is the result of crime like rape or incest.

    More protests are planned during the week.

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