Thousands rally in Poland against abortion curbs

Defying coronavirus restrictions, hundreds gathered in central Warsaw, chanting "Freedom, equality, abortion on demand". Some carried placards that said "I am afraid to live here" and "Banning abortion discriminates against the poor".

Police in riot gear lined major roads of the city, as protesters marched to Aretha Franklin's "Think" and "We Will Rock You" by Queen.

The protests follow a Constitutional Tribunal ruling from October that terminating pregnancies with foetal defects was unconstitutional, eliminating the most frequently used case for legal abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation.

The ruling came into effect late on Wednesday (January 27) when it was published in the official gazette

Under the new rules, abortion can be performed legally only in the case of rape or incest and when the mother's health or life are at risk, putting Poland outside the European mainstream. Doctors defying the law face jail.

The country was rocked by weeks of nationwide protests following the Oct. 22 court decision. They had quickly morphed into an outpouring of anger against the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government and the powerful Catholic Church.

PiS has rejected opposition accusations that it had influenced the court in its decision, although it is one of the judicial bodies PiS overhauled during reforms that the European Union said have politicised the courts.