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Poland party chief aims to outlaw Down syndrome abortions

Associated Press Associated Press 12/10/2016

WARSAW, Poland — Poland's ruling conservative party wants to tighten the country's already restrictive abortion law by requiring women to give birth in cases when the fetus is badly deformed or has no chance of survival, the party leader said Wednesday.

"We will strive to ensure that even cases of very difficult pregnancies, when the child is certain to die, very deformed, still end up in a birth, so that the child can be baptized, buried, have a name," Law and Justice party Chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in an interview published by the Polish state news agency, PAP.

Kaczynski said the policy his party is proposing only would exclude cases in which the mother's health or life was at risk.

His comments came just days after Law and Justice members in Parliament voted down a draft law that called for a total ban on abortions and for prison terms of up to five years for women who intentionally ended their pregnancies.

Many of the same lawmakers had voted to consider the legislation only two weeks earlier, but defeated it after massive street demonstrations and boycotts by women in predominantly Catholic Poland. The ban was proposed by a civic anti-abortion group.

Kaczynski denied the party's change of heart resulted from the protests, but said Law and Justice is now drafting another anti-abortion bill to curb the termination of pregnancies in cases of fetal illness or genetic defects such as the one that causes Down syndrome. He gave no detail or the timing for the new draft.

Health officials say almost 2,000 legal abortions are performed annually in Poland, mostly of fetuses with Down syndrome.

Concerned over a declining birth rate and an aging population, Law and Justice is developing polices to support large families, like bonuses of 500 zlotys ($130) a month for every child born after the first one.

At the same time, it suspended funding for in-vitro fertilization, which is not in line with Catholic Church teaching.

Poland already has one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws. It currently allows abortions through the 12th week of pregnancy only if the mother's life or health is threatened, if the pregnancy results from a crime like rape or incest, or if the fetus is incurably ill.

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