Protests erupt in Poland as abortion law comes into effect

A controversial Polish court ruling that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, which came into force on Wednesday, brought thousands into the streets, news wires reported.

The move, announced by the country's right-wing government, means that all abortions in Poland will be banned except in cases of rape and incest and when the mother's life or health are considered to be at risk.

"The ruling will be published today in the Journal of Laws," the government said on Twitter.

Protesters in the capital Warsaw lit red flares, waved gay rainbow flags and brandished placards reading "This Means War" and "Free Choice, Not Terror". Many also held up the red lightning symbol used by pro-choice activists as they brought traffic to a halt. There were similar protests across Poland, defying coronavirus restrictions forbidding mass gatherings.

The country was rocked by massive demonstrations when the Constitutional Court verdict was first issued in October, following a request by members of the governing ultra-Catholic Law and Justice party (PiS). The October 22 ruling said abortions in cases of foetal abnormalities were "incompatible" with the constitution.

"Express your anger today as you see fit," Marta Lempart, a leading protest organiser from the organisation Women's Strike, told a hastily-arranged press conference after the government announcement, AFP reported. "We are calling on everyone to go into the streets," she said, adding that publication of the ruling constituted "a crime".

Klementyna Suchanow, another organiser from Women's Strike, said: "When we speak of hell for women, we can also speak of hell for the government. We are going to make this hell for you," she said.

Suchanow and Lempart both wore green headscarves - the symbol of abortion rights activists in Argentina, which legalised abortion last month in a landmark move.

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