Women walk out of church in Poland following Catholic bishops call for a total ban

Poland already has the most restrictive laws on abortion in the EU, allowing abortion only at the earliest stages, and if the woman’s life or health is endangered, if the pregnancy resulted from a criminal act, or if the fetus is seriously malformed. This new total ban would carry a five year jail sentence for seeking an abortion, and would make unintentionally causing a miscarriage punishable with imprisonment, under the assumption that the woman brought on the miscarriage herself.

Thousands are protesting at government buildings, following the Prime Minister’s endorsement of a total ban requested by the Catholic Church. The video below, posted on Facebook, depicts women (and a few men) walking out of church as the Priest reads a letter calling for a total ban.

The Guardian has covered the story in detail on their site, noting that the ban has support of the conservative majority party in office now. While most Poles see abortion as immoral, support for the current laws was once widespread, and it seems surprising that anyone could support arresting a woman who has unintentionally miscarried.

Do you think the ban will succeed? What do you think this controversy will mean for the Roman Catholic church, in Poland and elsewhere? What will it mean for faithful women who are afraid of the overreach proposed?

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  1. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    I do not believe in abortion on demand and consider it to be murder. I think there is a narrow path to follow, but in the world we live it is a dangerous one.

    Both Hebrew and Christian scripture stands on the side of life. I do not believe the scriptures are supportive of abortion in any case. Maybe that is why the Church is taking the stance it has taken.

    This struggle will continue to be an issue that will cause many to struggle with their faith for many years to come and will not be resolved without much pain on both sides.

    • Helen Kromm

      I respect your beliefs although I disagree with them. I draw the line, and my respect diminishes, when you imply that your personal beliefs should be imposed upon others. Particularly when abortion has no impact and effect upon your life.

      I also take exception to this peculiar notion that a “struggle” over abortion continues and must be resolved. It parallels words recently spoken by Trump, and in fact words that have been heard even in these pages before Trump emerged upon the scene. Except the word used primarily is “disagreement”, and that the abortion issue must be “settled”.

      Although not always, but predominately, those words are seemingly spoken by pasty faced, older white men. Those who believe they are part of some new “silent majority”, even though they are neither silent, and surely not a majority.

      In fact, there is no struggle. There is nothing to resolve, and there is nothing to be decided. It is a lie to imply that there is a need for resolution. As it pertains to this country, that resolution occurred almost half a century ago. And if you think it’s going to revert back any time soon, then you are delusional. Not with the majority of Americans supporting it. And certainly not with the current generation of pasty faced white men and Fox news devotees being replaced by angry young people who are sick and tired of being told what is, and is not, appropriate when it comes to their health and their bodies.

      What is happening in Poland is both scandalous and Draconian. I believe the Polish people will stand up and turn this around. Let’s hope they turn it around before any women die.

  2. John Chilton

    (Conscious, I’m the 2nd commenter and we’re both male.)

    I believe abortion should be treated as any other medical procedure. To give just one of many reasons, abortions should be safe and done by medical professionals. Women die from unsafe abortions.

    In parallel, consider that if you miscarry you are likely to keep it a secret even if there are complications and you need medical attention, including treatment for grief. (Yikes – to add to your grief they are going to inspect your womb for evidence?)

    Taking this back one more step, if you are pregnant the incentives under the proposal are to keep it a secret as long as you don’t show. That means the child you are carrying won’t receive medical during this crucial period.

  3. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    The position I am concerned about with abortion is God’s gift of life to us (created in God’s Image). The Church has been consistent on abortion.

    “Give us the grace – When the sacredness of
    life before birth is attacked, to stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.”
    Pope John Paul II

    “Never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ
    is with you: be not afraid!”
    Pope John Paul II

    “As believers, how can we fail to see that abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are a terrible rejection of God’s gift of life and love? And as believers, how can we fail to feel the duty to
    surround the sick and those in distress with the
    warmth of our affection and the support that will help them always to embrace life?”
    Pope John Paul II

    “You are called to stand up for life! To respect and defend the mystery of life always and everywhere, including the lives of unborn babies, giving real help and encouragement to mothers in
    difficult situations. You are called to work and pray
    against abortion.”
    Pope John Paul II

    “The promotion of the culture of life should be the highest priority in our societies…If the right to life is not defended decisively as a condition for all other
    rights of the person, all other references to human rights remain deceitful and illusory.”
    Pope John Paul II

    “That is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition of her survival, yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weak and most
    defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.”
    Pope John Paul II

    “It is a poverty that a “child must die”, So that you may live as you wish…”
    Mother Teresa

    “There are two victims in every abortion: a dead baby and a dead conscience.”
    Mother Teresa

    • Joie Weiher

      Why are you quoting RC authorities? This is the Episcopal Church. Are you an Episcopal priest or a RC one? I’m an Episcopal priest, a woman, and a mother. Roman Catholic doctrine about abortion has no authority here.

  4. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    Then stop saying you are Anglo-Catholic and stop using the Nicene Creed, it’s Roman Catholic. The trouble with the Episcopal Church is it stands for nothing. I am an Episcopalian, but I am very traditional in my beliefs. I am not going to be run out of my church by progressives. The church is bleeding members and this is the primary cause.

    • David Allen

      It isn’t Roman Catholic. The Nicene Creed is of the undivided universal church. The origins of the Nicene Creed date to the 1st Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. Seven centuries before the divided Church, which is why it is also found among the creeds & liturgies of the Orthodox churches.

      Identifying as Anglo-Catholic has nothing to do with following popes or other Roman Catholic figures. You may be traditional, but you are quite mistaken about much of what you post here of late. Have you thought of getting a blog of your own? Then you may post until your heart is content.

      PS – your four posts for the day in this thread have been used up.

      • Dr. William A Flint, MDiv, PhD

        So much for free expression in the Liberal and Progressive Episcopal Community. Let’s face it we come from two very different times in history and what the Church means to us is very different. I will not be on this site again. However, I thank you for helping me understand those who left the TEC to form the ANCA. Abortion is a tough issue and justification for it is incompatible with Christian teaching, but that comes from one whose mother gave her life for him to be born. Have a nice day.

      • David Streever

        William: abortion is the unimaginable for many women who have them, but they are even more unimaginable for us men.
        You will have to look very hard indeed to find anyone who is actually positive about abortion. I think even advocates for it seem to see it as a tragedy.

        With that said, I’m not sure you understand the issue in this case. Do you think women who miscarry should go to jail?

        Poland only allows abortion at an early stage with a lot of oversight. As it is, many women end up having dangerous illegal abortions.

        The only conditions under which Poland allows abortions are: mother’s life at risk, pregnancy caused by a criminal act, or a fetus malformed severely. Under the laws called for by priests, a woman pregnant by rape by a family member whose life is in danger would no longer be allowed to have an abortion. Where was the priest leading up to this? Where is the church after the baby is born? Does it take away the baby, and if the mother lives, put her in a convent? (I trust you’ve seen Philomena).

        The issue does not seem to be one of people being closed to your free expression, but rather that your expression is limited and stunted already: you’ve taken a complex problem and abstracted and reduced it to something no longer representative of the reality.

      • Dt. William A. Flint MDiv, PhD

        David, I do not count miscarriages as abortions. I consider a miscarriage a very serious occasion in which two people have lost a child they never had a opportunity to get to know. If the Polish Church doesn’t make a distinction it is their sin. Thank you for pointing that out to me.

      • David Streever

        You’re welcome; I’ll point you to John Chilton’s comment too, where he notes that if the Polish Catholic Church succeeds in making miscarriage punishable by law, it will probably result in more of them, as women may skip early (and important) visits to doctors in order to hide their pregnancy for fear of a miscarriage.

        Medical studies suggest that half of all pregnancies result in miscarriage, sometimes without the realization of the woman, and a quarter of all recognized pregnancies result in miscarriage.

        This is one of many reasons why people are uncomfortable with the Church stepping in to write laws & bills; do we really want to arrest a woman who has lost her pregnancy? It’s one issue, but reveals a deeper ignorance on the issue that is troubling.

  5. Robert Hicker

    During the communist era, the Church was the only free institution allowed to function in Poland. It stood for freedom. The Church avoided discussion on social issues and focused on survival and working for a free Poland. Just going to Mass was an act of defiance against the government. The Church enjoyed a fierce loyalty of intellectuals, workers, Catholics and non Catholics. Today with communism gone, the Church no longer enjoys this blind loyalty. Polish Church officials need to enter meaningful dialog with rank and file Polish Catholics to create a Church that is spiritually and socially meaningful in post-communist Poland.

  6. Helen Kromm

    One can only assume that you would heartily get behind these beliefs as expressed by Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II as well.

    “I know that couples have to plan their family and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception.”
    Mother Teresa

    “In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self.”
    Mother Teresa

    “When … through contraception married couples remove from the exercise of their conjugal sexuality its potential procreative capacity, they claim a power which belongs solely to God; the power to decide in a final analysis the coming into existence of a human person. They assume the qualification not of being cooperators in God’s creative power, but the ultimate depositories of the source of human life. In this perspective, contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified.”
    Pope John Paul II

    So as it relates to both abortion and birth control, there is a simple solution. Don’t use birth control, and don’t have an abortion. You are thereby living your life in accordance with your deeply held beliefs.

    Problem solved.

    As to what I do, and how I live my life, it is my deeply held beliefs that I hold as important. That statement applies to millions upon millions of women. That you would advocate that you maintain the right to dictate what I do relating to reproduction and health care is reprehensible.

  7. Robert E. Lewis

    Will somone direct DOCTOR Flint to page 305 of the BCP? Perhaps there he will find what the Episcopal Church stands for.

    • Dt. William A. Flint MDiv, PhD

      I don’t base my belief or faith on BCP. Scripture only. I do support marriage equality.

      • Gregory Orloff

        The Church has never based her faith on “Scripture only.” In fact, much of the Scriptures Christians appeal to today weren’t even written when the Church came into existence on that first Pentecost after Christ Jesus’ resurrection. The Bible is a product and expression of the Church, not the other way around. Hence the classical Anglican “three-legged” stool on which its spirituality sits: Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

        At any rate, taking even a cursory glance at Page 305 of the Book of Common Prayer reveals words that are profoundly Scriptural in their content and spirit — a shorthand summation of the mission to which the Gospel of Christ Jesus calls us:

        Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

        I will, with God’s help.

        Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

        I will, with God’s help.

        Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

        I will, with God’s help.

  8. When my first child miscarried, it was via a “missed abortion”. That means that the embryo died but failed to miscarry. So I underwent surgery to remove the remains. When I returned to work, some insensitive colleagues remembered me lifting a box, and wondered if that caused the “miscarriage”. Can you imagine the position I might be in if constrained by this kind of law? God has good and eternal care of my lost baby, I am sure. Politicians? Not so much.

  9. Dr William A. Flint MDiv, PhD

    While the abortion debate continues I will watch from the sidelines, but I will always support the right of the unborn to be born.

  10. I would commend to everyone’s attention Resolution 1994-A054, which is the General Convention’s last comprehensive statement on abortion. It affirms that there is always “a tragic dimension” to any ending of a pregnancy; that it should primarily be a decision between a woman and her physician; and that we as a church are called to offer advice and support as best we can, and as the woman (and perhaps family involved) wishes. It states it should only be chosen in “extreme circumstances,” while leaving definitions of extreme to patient and doctor in each situation. It does assert that the Church does not support terminations for birth control, family planning, sex selection, or convenience.

    There is a significant history in the Episcopal Church of folks differing on this. So, Brother Dr. Flint, there are certainly those who agree with you. There are also certainly those who disagree. We’ve managed so far to be able to worship together.

    We might note that public surveys in the United States have been consistent for decades. A majority believe there needs to be an option for safe, legal, medical abortion. A majority believes that it should be subject to some regulation. So, neither pole of the debate represents a majority. My guess would be that the members of the Episcopal Church are also mostly in that middle.

    • Susan Moritz

      The Pew Religious Landscape Survey (2014) shows that 53% of all adults surveyed in the US believe abortion should be legal in almost all cases; 43% believe it should be illegal.
      48% of Catholics believe it should be legal; 47% believe it should be illegal.
      60% of mainline protestants believe it should be legal; 35% believe it should be illegal.
      In the United States, however sincere one’s personal beliefs may be, the “debate” over abortion seems far more politicized than genuinely religious. This seems to be true in Poland as well, where the Religion News Service reported that thousands demonstrated on Sunday against the proposed law but where the conservative “Law and Justice” party has aligned itself very closely with the bishops.

  11. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    We seemed to have had a full and complete discussion of this subject matter and maybe helped us all to understand each other better.

    Now we should turn our thoughts toward Mississippi’s new discrimination law.


  12. John Donnelly

    As a practicing obstetrician for thirty years, I feel this pain. In my mind, there clearly exists a societal goal to protect vulnerable women and the unborn, but I also experience a first trimester spontaneous pregnancy loss of 30%; even more if the woman is over 40, as many of the women I care for are. Shouldn’t this fact effect how we feel, and even more how we legislate, reproductive choice? Few choose abortion without deep dread and regret. I think the much-maligned President Carter may have said it first: abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Episcopalians, I think, have tried to invoke the via media to support reproductive choice, especially when disastrous early pregnancies threaten life and health or promise a horrible fetal disorder. Poland’s Roman hierarchy only carries the extremist anti-choice position to its logical conclusion, as poor Mr. Trump accidentally acknowledged this week.

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