Polish Catholic archbishop: president’s abortion law proposal would be ‘new form of euthanasia’

24835638847 bff61abdf3 k Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, pictured Jan. 15, 2018. | EpiskopatNews Flickr photostream.

A Catholic archbishop said Tuesday that an abortion law proposal outlined by Poland's president would amount to a "new form of euthanasia."

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of Poland's bishops' conference, told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI Nov. 3 that Catholics should oppose a change in the law that would permit abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality.

President Andrzej Duda announced Oct. 30 that he would propose a bill permitting abortion when there was "a high probability that the child will be stillborn or have an incurable disease or defect that will lead to the death of the child inevitably and directly."

Duda made the proposal following mass demonstrations across Poland in response to an Oct. 22 ruling by the constitutional court that a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, opened the way for lawmakers to amend a 1993 law on abortion and ban what pro-lifers refer to as "eugenic abortions."

In an interview with KAI, the archbishop of Poznań said: "The presidential proposal would be a new form of euthanasia that selects individuals according to the possibility of survival. This time around, eugenic abortions will be subsumed under the new rule -- with the possible exception of children with Down syndrome -- and everything will remain at the same point."

It emerged this week that the government had delayed the publication of the constitutional court's ruling. The judgment, which has no legal force until its publication in the Journal of Laws, was scheduled to be published Nov. 2.

But Michał Dworczyk, the chief of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland, told the Associated Press: "There is a discussion going on, and it would be good to take some time for dialogue and for finding a new position in this situation that is difficult and stirs high emotions."

Gądecki criticized the delay, saying that it "raised many question marks."

The constitutional court issued its ruling after a group of 119 MPs belonging to the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) and two smaller parties asked the court to review the 1993 law relating to abortion in cases of fetal abnormality.

"The defense of human life is one of the priorities among the activities of Catholic politicians. No wonder the Church supported, and supports, their endeavors and efforts, and is grateful to those parliamentarians who undertook this difficult task," Gądecki said.

About 1,000 abortions are legally procured in the country annually, the vast majority of them on the basis of fetal abnormality.

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

During the protests that followed the court ruling, protesters targeted churches, disrupting Sunday Masses and spraypainting pro-abortion graffiti on Church property. 

The archbishop rejected protesters' claims that the Church was too closely aligned with the ruling party. He insisted that "the Church in Poland is not on the side of the right or left, or even on the side of the center, but on the side of the Gospel."

He also said that the protests revealed "how far the secularization and degradation of our culture had gone."

"Western patterns have been widely transferred to our land. The model of living according to the principles of consumerism without suffering and without worries has become the desire of many," he argued.

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The archbishop underlined the need for prayer and fasting in response to the incidents, as well as the importance of dialogue.

He also said that families raising disabled children would require greater support following the ruling.

"While appreciating the step taken by the Constitutional Tribunal, I am convinced that the modification of the law is not a sufficient act," he commented.

"In such situations, as a society, we have a duty to properly support and help mothers and their loved ones. Women who, as a result of a medical diagnosis, find out that their child may be prenatally ill or disabled, as well as their fathers and families, need multifaceted professional help." 

He continued: "It is also necessary to significantly increase economic support for them, to provide constant medical and psychological care, as well as to create a systemic possibility of rest for parents caring for disabled children. The whole of society should be in solidarity with them and ready to provide all possible help."

Meanwhile, at his general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed support for a global rosary initiative launched by Polish pro-lifers. 

Greeting Polish pilgrims, he welcomed the "Rosary to the Gates of Heaven," which aims to unite people around the world in prayer for unborn children Nov. 1-8.

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"During this week, throughout Poland, the common prayer 'Rosary to the Gates of Heaven' unites your families and parishes," the pope said Nov. 4. 

"May this supplication, brought to heaven through the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, obtain the healing of wounds associated with the loss of unborn children, the forgiveness of sins, the gift of reconciliation, and fill your hearts with hope and peace."

It was the second week in a row that the pope had offered succor to Polish pro-lifers. At his audience on Oct. 28, he asked for St. John Paul II's intercession for respect for life.

"Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy and the holy Polish pontiff, I ask God to inspire in the hearts of all respect for the life of our brothers, especially of the most fragile and defenseless, and to give strength to those who welcome it and take it care, even when it requires heroic love," he said.

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