Amid abortion debate, Polish bishops urge protection of the unborn

Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda was named president of the Polish bishops’ conference on March 14, 2024. | Credit: Silar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Polish Bishops’ Conference has issued a letter opposing a political push to legalize abortion, stressing that “no one, in the name of personal freedom, has the right to decide on the life of another human being.”

The letter on the protection of life, approved during the 398th Plenary Assembly of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in Warsaw, comes amid growing pressure from lawmakers to dismantle Poland’s strong pro-life protections.

On April 12, Polish lawmakers voted to move forward with proposals to lift the near-total ban on abortion in the traditionally Catholic country, AP reported.

Among the proposed changes, two bills aim to legalize abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy. Another proposal seeks to decriminalize assisting women who procure abortions, which is currently a punishable offense.

The bishops assert that “the life of a new and unique human person begins at conception, that is, the fusion of the cells of the mother and the father. From that moment on, every human being should have the full right to the protection of life.”

The Polish prelates also quote St. John Paul II from his encyclical Evangelium Vitae: “There can be no true democracy without a recognition of every person’s dignity and without respect for his or her rights” (EV, 101).

The bishops point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the Polish Constitution and statutory provisions protect everyone’s right to life, calling it “an elementary principle inscribed in human nature which must not be violated.”

Expressing concern over attempts to legalize “the killing of the child in the womb,” the bishops deem it “extremely dangerous for public safety” and urge all people of goodwill to oppose such efforts.

The letter emphasizes that “as shepherds of the Catholic Church in Poland, and at the same time citizens of our country, we have the right and duty to remind — both the faithful of the Catholic Church and all people of goodwill — that we are obliged to respect human beings, especially the weakest and defenseless.”

The letter echoes a letter by Polish physicians from February in which Catholic doctors call on Prime Minister Donald Tusk “to stop activities aimed at making abortion available in Poland.”

The bishops also highlight the importance of loving families and the lasting marriage of parents in protecting unborn life. They pay tribute to mothers who protect their children in difficult situations and call on fathers to fulfill their commitment to the legal protection of human life.

Even if the proposed bills pass through the Polish Parliament, they would likely face a veto from President Andrzej Duda, a committed Catholic who remains in office until the summer of 2025.

Last month, Duda vetoed a bill that would have made the “morning-after pill” available over-the-counter to women and girls 15 and older.

The bishops’ letter will be read in Polish churches on Sunday, June 16. The bishops thanked those who serve life and asked everyone to “steadfastly and sacrificially defend the gospel of life” and pray for the protection of life as the debate over abortion rights continues to divide the nation.

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