The 21st Century Fight for Women’s Rights

Emma C

Are women’s rights still under attack? In 2021, over 100 years since the birth of the suffrage movement and the fight for women’s rights began, it remains an ongoing battle especially in the area of reproductive rights.

Some European countries such as Ireland, are moving forwards in terms of woman’s healthcare.  On May 25, 2018, a referendum was held, and the people voted to repeal the 8th amendment and legalize abortion.  Unfortunately, even as recently as 2021, some countries are moving backwards in terms of women’s rights to govern their own bodies.  In Poland, a new law that came into effect on January 27, 2021 that bans all abortions unless it is a case of rape or incest, or, if mothers life is at risk.

Abortion laws in Poland were already strict, but the court ruled that a 1993 law allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional, thus tightening restrictions even more. The current government in office in Poland is Law and Justice, which is a conservative type of party.

It can be frightening to see countries start to move backwards in the realm of women’s health. Poland, a predominantly Catholic country was governed by religious undertones for many years and was slowly starting to move away from a strong religious base. With the Law and Justice party in power, there is a push to move back to more traditional values, where the government has more control over what people can do based on values rooted in religion and traditionalism, restricting people’s actions so they conform to the Party’s base values.

The Law and Justice party campaigned for re-election in 2019 and won on the platform of bettering the Polish economy, and putting Polish needs first. Old-traditional ideas is what the government advocated for, similar to Trumps slogan “make America great again,”.  There was fear that Poland was losing their identity due to foreign influence and that the country was being taken away from the Polish people. The Law and Justice Party took this fear and ran with it when building their platform appealing to people’s want to strengthen the Polish economy, while not clearly outlining their other restrictive views that may not be as supported by the population.

Jaroslaw Kaczyński and his twin brother founded the Law and Justice Party in 2001 on the basis of strong nationalistic ideas, radical viewpoints and the belief that they would save the nation. These ideas are reminiscent of ideas of past fascist and authoritarian regimes that believed they were going to save the nation. Their beliefs were built from the idea that the regime had the best interests of the country and its “native” population in mind and that they were saving its Polish citizens from being invaded by foreigners. While these ideas may seem nationalistic and harmless in theory, in practice they can be quite harmful.

In today’s political climate with many progressive movements gaining popularity worldwide advocating for equal rights and access, many feel that they are slipping away from traditional ways that have served their country up until today. In Poland, the current attack on a woman’s right to choose what happens to their own body stems from a concern, manufactured from a political party, that the country has strayed too far from its Catholic roots. In order to win back the public’s trust and vote, this new stricter abortion ban that passed is a signal that Poland is not going to stray from its Catholic roots. I think a point needs to be made to more clearly delineate religion from politics. The promotion of religion as a basis of governing law has long been a popular method to encourage people to align with political parties.  It provides the illusion of credibility for some of the more restrictive laws, but also certainly excludes a portion of the population. It is unfortunate that Poland, like Texas, has based their political platform on religious grounds that are rooted in historical interpretation of a different time with little relevance in the world today.

Women should not be restricted by laws based on archaic religious principles but have the freedom to choose what happens to their bodies, no matter what religion their leaders choose to follow. Religion itself has had a very turbulent history and it seems that the quest for women’s reproductive rights to be a self-managed decision will be just as tumultuous.

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