Protesters suspended church services across Poland, in protest against the near-total ban on legal abortion, imposed in Poland under a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court.
Demonstrators held sit-ins, raised pro-abortion banners and boycotted Sunday mass in some churches.
These protests are considered unusual in a country where the Roman Catholic Church wields great influence.
Poland’s Supreme Court ruled that ending the life of a disfigured fetus is unconstitutional.
After the verdict, abortion in Poland will not be legal unless the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s life or health or is the result of a prohibited act such as rape or incest.
The court’s decision came as a result of a legal challenge filed by lawmakers from the ruling nationalist “Law and Justice” party last year.
Poland’s abortion laws were already among the strictest in Europe, with nearly 100,000 women every year seeking abortions abroad to circumvent the strict restrictions.
Sunday is the fourth consecutive day of protests against the controversial ruling, which has angered women’s rights activists and human rights groups.
Protests in which thousands of people took part – most of them women – took place across the country despite restrictions imposed by the Corona epidemic that limit public gatherings.
Mass was stopped in Poznan, where dozens of women chanted “tired of it” and raised pro-abortion banners in front of the altar.
Priests were forced to stop mass, and then protesters sat on the ground before police officers arrived.
And in a park in Krakow, black underwear hung on the lines between trees, while in Lodz there was a protest in front of the city cathedral, calling for people to separate the church from the state.
Critics of the Catholic Church argue that it exerts significant political influence over government policy in Poland.
“I am here today because it annoys me that in a secular country, the church decides for me what rights I have, what I can do and what I am not allowed to do,” Julia Moutek, a 26-year-old protester, told Reuters news agency.
Slogans such as “Women’s Hell” and “Unlimited Abortions” were written on church walls in Warsaw.
In one prominent church, young men from far-right and brotherly groups stood in front of the entrance, preventing the activists from entering.
Abortion is a very contentious issue in Poland. A poll conducted by the CBS Research Center in 2014 showed that 65% of the Poles surveyed oppose abortion, 27% view abortion as acceptable and 8% undecided.
However, recent polls indicate that a clear majority opposes making the abortion law stricter.