Activists converge on Warsaw for ‘biggest’ protests against abortion ruling

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WARSAW (Reuters) – Protesters were planning to converge on Warsaw from across Poland on Friday for what police said would likely be the biggest demonstrations yet against a court ruling that amounted to a near-total ban on abortion.

Tens of thousands of activists have mounted daily rallies, marching through cities and disrupting church services in the predominantly Catholic country since last week’s Constitutional Court decision.

“We expect these to be the biggest protests since the verdict,” Warsaw police spokesman Sylwester Marczak said. “Considering how big they can be, we always use the support of the police from other garrisons.”

Protest group Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike) said on its Facebook page that demonstrators would gather in three locations in the city centre at 1600 GMT.

“Time has passed, so … we are going to Warsaw from all over Poland,” it added.

Demonstrations have turned into an outpouring of anger against the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, with protesters blaming it and the powerful Roman Catholic Church for the ruling.

The Court decision on Thursday last week outlawed abortions due to foetal defects – ending the most common of the few legal grounds left for abortion in Poland and setting the country further apart from the European mainstream.

After it goes into effect, women will only be able to terminate a pregnancy legally in the case of rape, incest or a threat to their health.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealed to activists on Thursday to halt the mass protests, saying they would fuel more coronavirus infections and threaten the elderly.

Coronavirus infections have been rising sharply in Poland and across Europe over the past weeks.

(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Pawel Florkiewicz and Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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