The leader of Poland’s ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, accused demonstrators of seeking the destruction of the nation and appealed to supporters to “defend Poland.”.
Tens of thousands of women took to the streets in dozens of Polish cities and towns for a nationwide strike on Wednesday to protest a top court’s decision to ban nearly all abortions, even as the nation’s leading politician called on his conservative supporters to “defend Poland.”.
The call by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the deputy prime minister and leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, to fight back against those he cast as “criminals” seeking to “destroy the Polish nation,” threatened to escalate an already tense moment in the deeply divided nation.
His remarks, made in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday and in a video posted Tuesday night to his supporters on Facebook, came as protests stretched into a sixth straight day and drew in the Roman Catholic Church, with demonstrators interrupting Mass, vandalizing church facades and staging sit-ins at cathedrals as they held coat hangars aloft to symbolize dangerous abortions.
The women protesting the abortion ruling have been joined by a host of other groups opposed to what they see as the authoritarian drift of the ruling party.
The ban on abortion — made by a court ruling that is not subject to appeal — was for many the culmination of a multiyear effort by the ruling party to undermine the rule of law and, step by step, take control of the judicial system.
Twice before, in 2016 and 2018, the ruling party moved in Parliament to impose a ban on abortion.
The widespread outpouring of anger over the past week reflected the pent-up frustration felt by many after watching the steady erosion of institutions meant to safeguard democracy, said Marcin Matczak, a constitutional scholar and law professor at the University of Warsaw.
The court’s decision on abortion, he said, “would not be possible without the previous assault on the rule of law.".
The court’s decision halted pregnancy terminations for fetal abnormalities, virtually the only type of abortion currently performed in the country.
The frustration with the church is also, in many ways, the culmination of watching the critical role many of its leaders have played in the political victories of the Law and Justice party.
Robert Bakiewicz, the leader of an ultranationalist group, had already said his supporters would form a “Catholic self-defense” force, what he called a “national guard,” to confront “neo-Bolshevik revolutionaries.”.
Kaczynski of issuing a “call to lynching” and condemned what he said was the creation of “militias” loyal to the ruling party
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