On international women’s day, thousands of women take to the streets in Poland

Women marched in front of Poland’s Justice Ministry on Thursday after losing a battle to weaken abortion laws in the country. The march is part of a broad campaign from women’s groups seeking to convince the government to pass a new abortion law that gives greater legal protections to the procedure.

Women held signs reading, “Stop attacking women” and “Dance of Women Against Artifice” – a reference to the views of anti-abortion activists that women dance in order to get abortions. The march coincides with the first international women’s day held in Poland in 15 years.

More than 30 women were arrested in Poland on Thursday as they attempted to block authorities from handing out flyers promoting a rally for women against abortion, according to The Associated Press.

Demonstrators have been protesting both the government’s policy on abortion and its recent moves to ban abortion after a Down syndrome pregnancy is detected. Under the current law, abortions can be performed if the pregnancy results from rape or incest or if the woman or her partner is at risk of serious harm to their health.

Even if they do succeed in passing a new law, changing the country’s abortion laws is going to be a long and difficult process. Although Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has set a goal of repealing the current abortion restrictions within the next five years, the conservative party that controls Parliament has opposed liberalizing the laws.

Author Anima Mazów controls a children’s paper and has been a long-time campaigner for abortion rights and has appeared in media campaigns as the main celebrity. She will be speaking on a panel on Friday titled “Illumination of Lives and Wider Global Concerns.”

At the center of this social, economic and political standoff is Piotr Tkacziewski, 28, a young Polish actor who plays a supporting role on the Polish TV series VIZ-5. He founded a group, International Pro-Life Association, which works to defend the country’s strict abortion laws. He told CNN, “It’s a very young country — a generation that doesn’t want to change the law. I don’t blame them. There’s a lot of knowledge out there and people who consider themselves activists won’t do their homework.”

When his organization came to collect signatures from citizens calling for changes to the current laws, Wojciech Mallys, a 32-year-old singer, spoke out against it. He wrote on Facebook, “They just want to end the abortion debate in this country. And they’re good at that. I don’t want them to get their way — but I do want them to know that they have their other way of silencing people.”

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