Sheffield students held a protest in the city centre on Saturday to show their solidarity with women in Poland, following a ruling made last week banning almost all abortion in the country.

About 50 people gathered on Holly Street on 24 October to express their disapproval with the ruling by Poland’s highest court that an existing law allowing the abortion of malformed foetuses was incompatible with the constitution.

Karolina Prusicka, one of the protest’s organisers and a student at the University, said: “We were just angry. We are abroad but still care what is happening in our country and we wanted to show our solidarity. We wanted to raise awareness about Polish women’s situation. We are happy that many people showed up while adhering the social distancing rules.”

Abortions caused by serious foetus malformation accounted for 98% of all legal pregnancy terminations in Poland in 2019. As a consequence of the new ban almost all abortions will be illegal with exception for cases of incest, rape and the risk to mother’s health. 

One of the Sheffield protesters, Wiktoria Jędrzejczak, 19, said: “Abortions caused by foetal abnormalities are necessary to prevent lifelong traumas for mothers who from now on will be forced to look at their baby’s first and the only breath.”

The protest started at 5pm and was among the other events organised on Saturday in other UK cities, including London, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Protesters appeared in Sheffield city centre holding coat hangers that symbolised the unsafe illegal abortions, conducted by women in the countries where pregnancy termination is illegal.

They also brought various banners with captions including “Women ≠ incubators” or “Poland = an Orwellian wet dream”.

While standing in front of the Sheffield City Hall, protesters from Poland, Thailand, Norway and the UK could be heard chanting “My body, my choice”, “Women will never be defeated”, and “Women’s rights human rights”.

Social distancing rules were strictly followed throughout the entire protest as Sheffield adapted to Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions introduced in the early hours of Saturday. 

All protesters were instructed to wear face coverings and keep two metres distance.  

Image: Karolina Prusicka

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