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

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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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.

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.


Marshall Scott

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.

Marshall Scott

Thanks, Susan, for more detail.

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.

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.

Rosalind Hughes

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.

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