Thousands of Poles, many dressed in black, rallied Saturday in front of parliament in Warsaw to protest a proposed bill that would impose a complete ban on abortion, the AP reports. Speakers at the so-called "Black Protest" said a total ban on abortion, including for victims of rape or women whose lives are endangered by a pregnancy, would be "barbaric." Poland already has one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws. Organizers chose black as a symbol of mourning for the loss of reproductive rights that they say women could suffer if the law passes. In rallying speeches, they said they want as few abortions as possible in Poland, but that this goal should be achieved with better sex education in schools and easier access to birth control.
Protesters chanted "Stop the fanatics!" and "We want doctors not, missionaries," while slogans on banners included: "My body, my choice." Police estimated 5,000 people took part. One protester, Gosia Goszczynska, 36, said she is furious not only about a possible total abortion ban, but also other elements of the law which she sees as harmful to women, including a provision that would deny women prenatal testing. The proposal for the total ban on abortion, and the outrage it has sparked, are the latest example of deepening social tensions under Poland's conservative Law and Justice party, which took power last year and holds a majority in the parliament. The proposal for the stricter law came from a citizens' initiative that had gathered 450,000 signatures.