Polish court declares abortion in cases of fetal abnormalities unconstitutional

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Poland's constitutional court ruled Thursday that a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities is unconstitutional.

In the highly anticipated ruling Oct. 22, the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw declared that the law introduced in 1993 was incompatible with Poland's constitution.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, could lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the country. 

Until now, Polish law had permitted abortion only in cases of rape or incest, risk to the mother's life, or fetal abnormality. 

Approximately 1,000 legal abortions take place in Poland each year. The majority are carried out in cases where the unborn child has a severe and irreversible disability or a life-threatening incurable disease. Polish pro-life campaigners describe the legal provision as "eugenic."

The court's verdict will be welcomed by Catholics across Poland who prayed a novena ahead of the ruling. 

The ruling will also be applauded by the hundreds of thousands of Poles who supported a citizen-initiated bill to ban abortion in cases of fetal abnormality earlier this year.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops' conference, expressed delight at the outcome.

"With this decision, it was found that the concept of 'life not worth living' is in sharp contradiction to the principle of a democratic state ruled by law. The life of every human being from conception to natural death is of equal value to God and should be equally protected by the state," he said.

He added: "While rejoicing in this epochal change of law, let us now remember that children -- who are directly affected by today's decision of the Constitutional Tribunal -- and their families should be surrounded with special kindness and real care on the part of the state, society, and the Church."

Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized the ruling, describing it on Twitter as "a sad day for women's rights."

The constitutional court was asked to examine the law last year by a group of 119 MPs belonging to the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), as well the smaller parties Konfederacja and PSL-Kukiz'15. 

Abortion will continue to remain legal in cases of rape or incest and risk to the mother's life.

Oct. 22 is the feast day of the Polish pope St. John Paul II, who led the Church from 1978 to 2005 and galvanized the pro-life movement around the world. 

This report has been updated to include Archbishop Gądecki's comments

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