The event I have chosen is the debate happening earlier this year in Poland, regarding a new anti-abortion law. Polish pro-life activists have proposed a law to the Polish government banning all forms of abortions, including pregnancies as a cause of incest or rape and in cases of fetal defect. The only exception is if the mother’s life is in danger, of which there is no clear definition. The law also proposes to investigate miscarriages and increase the prison penalty for women taking abortions abroad, as well as for doctors providing any form of assistance. The proposal had almost five hundred thousand signatures from the Polish population, which is predominantly Catholic. There was an immense reaction amongst the people in Poland, and hundreds of activists from both sides of the abortion debate picketed outside of Parliament and had major protests during the week.
Conservative Catholic religious values have influenced people’s opinion on abortion rights in Poland.
In the second wave of feminist theory there is a focus on women’s reproductive rights and agency of their own bodies. The theory critiques how men controls and make decisions about the female body without the women’s approval (Rampton, 2008). The Polish politician, Jaroslaw Kaczynski comments as he is denouncing the anti-abortion bill clearly proves this point. According to The Washington Post (2016), he says: “We will strive so that even the very difficult pregnancies, where the child will die, highly deformed, still end in birth so that the child can be baptized.” This demonstrates that even though he is disapproving of the bill, his views are not considerate of the women in this situation, but rather on the importance of baptizing the fetus. The bill proposal might also be a reflection of the women’s status within the Polish society and especially the Catholic Church. The conservative Catholic Church is very important in the Polish society, and has a strong influence in people’s decision-making. Within the church, women are not allowed to be ordained in higher positions, as it is not allowed according to the Catholic understanding of the bible. It is likely that this view of women transcends into daily society, with the consequence being that many people consider women to only be a product of their biological functions.
The secularization theory argues that we are living in an age were people are less involved in organized religion, in which religious institutions lose their responsibility and authority in the society (Kurtz, 2016). However, in Poland it seems that religion still is very significant. The Catholic Church argued, according to The Washington Post (2016), against including prison terms for women who had abortions or miscarriages. Therefore the politician Krystyna Pawlowicz could defend her rejection of the bill with a statement that: “the bishops had given their permission to vote down the bill.” With this argument Pawlowicz use the authority of the Church to back her opinion, as well as she displays how much impact the Church has on popular opinion. On the basis of this, the secularization theory doesn’t apply to the Polish society as of now. However, the proposed bill generated a lot of resistance and these protests might be an indication that people slowly have started to question the status quo.
Peter Berger (1966) claimed that each society creates a nomos. Nomos are patterns that a society wants people to see as objectively right and that individuals internalize. The nomos is in other words an external thing that we have objectified and internalized (Bartel, Sept. 8. 2016). Life Site News (2016) writes that the ban proposal was initiated by grass-roots movements, not the Catholic Church and the government. Ordo Iuris, the organization that made the proposal bill, explains in the article in Life Site News (2016) that they expect the government to replace the current abortion law with: “A system of support that will provide protection for every child and a sense of security to every family.” The idea of family values and the importance of protecting the life of the unborn child are the anti-abortion movements’ main focus. You could argue that their views on these issues are directly influenced by their connection to their religion. The Catholic Church clearly emphasizes its support for life from conception to birth, meaning there is life already at the time of the conception. Therefore, by using the sacred canopy theory to explain, the bill proposal was initiated by people due to their internalized nomos of the Catholic Church.
In this text I have discussed the Polish anti-abortion bill and the society’s reaction to the proposal through three different theories. My hypothesis was that:
“Conservative Catholic religious values have influenced people’s opinion on abortion rights in Poland.”
The feminist theory unravel how women are limited to their biological functions, and not considered able to occupy leadership position in the Catholic Church. The religion’s strong presence in the Polish society is further established through the secularization theory and the sacred canopy theory. They both demonstrate the Catholic Church’s significant position and authority through a minor degree of secularization and the internalization of the religion’s values. However, this event sparked opposition that might suggest an increasing resistance of the current situation.