Thousands of women began marching in cities across Poland on Thursday to protest the nation's change in abortion laws.
On Thursday, a court ruling banned abortions in the case of fetal malformations, which made up 98% of legal abortions last year, BBC reported.
The country will now only allow abortions in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother's life is endangered.
The ruling has sparked an outcry from rights groups who say that banning abortions will lead to more dangerous illegal terminations.
Thousands of women are marching in Poland to protest the nation banning almost all abortions.
On Thursday, Poland's highest court ruled that abortions due to fetal malformations are unconstitutional. According to BBC, fetal malformation-related terminations made up 98% of legal abortions last year.
Poland's tribunal president Julia Przylebska said abortions related to fetal defects allowed for "eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity," The New York Times reported.
The only abortions that will be allowed under the new laws are in cases of rape, incest, or whether the mother's life is endangered.
Beginning Thursday, thousands marched in protest of the new laws in major Polish cities including Krakow and Warsaw.
On Friday morning, protestors gathered outside the home of Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw.
The marches went in defiance of a public order banning gatherings of more than 10 people to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Protestors carried signs that read, "I would never give birth being dead," and "Without my life no life will exist."
Police in riot gear used pepper spray and physical force to subdue protestors, BBC reported.
Protestors are demanding a referendum on the ruling and have said they will block traffic throughout the country on Monday, according to the Guardian.
Poland is a staunchly Roman Catholic country and was already known for having some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe before the recent ruling.
According to Statista, there were 1,110 legal abortions in Poland in 2019 — up 3.2% from the previous year due to an increase in prenatal testing. A 2017 study estimated that up to 200,000 women have abortions in Poland each year, meaning a vast majority are done illegally.
Civil rights groups have spoken out against the ruling, saying it will lead to more illegal abortions.
"Legal prohibitions on abortion do not prevent abortion or reduce the rates of abortion -- they serve only to damage women's health by pushing abortions underground or forcing women to travel to foreign countries to access abortion care they need and to which they have a right," Amnesty International said in a statement on Thursday.
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