A well-attended protest was held last night outside the Polish Embassy in Reykjavík. It was the second protest within a week organised by activist group Dziewuchy ISLANDIA in opposition to Poland’s recent tightening of abortion law, after a court ruling banned almost all terminations of pregnancy in the country. Thousands have protested the change across Poland, which already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.
“By organising solidarity actions in Reykjavík we want to show our support to women and allies fighting for their lives and health in Poland, saying loudly ‘Nigdy nie będziesz szła sama’ (You will never walk alone, sister),” protest organisers Adrianna Stanczak, Sajja Justyna Grosel, and Anna Marjankowska told Iceland Review. “As Polish women able to move, work, and live in Iceland, we see our privilege of living in a country that provides basic health services, that lets us have gynaecological examinations without fear of being humiliated, lets us decide on our bodies and our futures, and lets us get help and medical treatment when we need it.”
Polish nationals are the largest immigrant group in Iceland, numbering over 20,000 and accounting for nearly half of all foreign nationals living in the country. Ewa Marcinek, who moved to Iceland in 2013, echoed the protest organisers’ sentiments. “I feel so lucky to live in Iceland, where medical care is granted to me without any religious or political limits. In Poland, a country with a strong Catholic tradition, abortion law is already strict, causing thousands of women every year to look for help abroad or to risk going through illegal procedures. Personally, I find no words to describe my sadness that the health and well-being of women living in Poland has been questioned in such a radical way.”
Michał Drewienkowski moved to Iceland two and a half years ago. He says he attended the protest to support his fiancée and other women. “It’s important to me to speak out because as a man I do not identify with the ideologies of the men governing Poland. I have a fiancée and I wanted her and all women in Poland to know that I support them. I’m standing with them. I will fight with them for gender equality, for basic health care, for their rights to self-determination, that women can and will make their own choices and they are not incubators.”
Fewer than 2,000 legal terminations are carried out in Poland each year, though women’s groups estimate that up to 200,000 abortions are either performed illegally or abroad. Abortions carried out when the foetus is malformed, which accounted for 98% of legal terminations last year, have been outlawed in Poland by the court ruling made last Thursday.
Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir Tweeted yesterday that she was “deeply concerned” about the developments in Poland.