7 Polish Women Who Fought for Abortion Rights Offer Advice to American Women Doing the Same

Black Monday. Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

On October 4, 2016, tens of thousands of women in Poland took to the streets to protest against new legislation introduced by their far-right government that would put a total ban on abortion. Poland’s abortion laws are already incredibly restrictive: Abortion is only permitted in cases of rape and sexual abuse, if there is a threat to the mother’s life, or if there’s evidence of severe fetal anomalies. Two days following the momentous protests, the legislation was voted down 352 to 58. Women had won some of their rights back.

In the U.S., though abortion is (currently) a protected right, even more restrictions on access and threats to funding at Planned Parenthood are attempts by the new administration to roll back to a pre–Roe v. Wade era. Ahead of Wednesday’s International Women’s Strike, Polish women who participated in the Black Monday protests wrote to the Cut with their advice for how to fight for the essential reproductive rights that the government is so keen on taking away.

Aleksandra Knapik, 33, Lodz, Poland
“It is important to stick together in solidarity — with other American women, as well as with women worldwide. It’s important to show that you are ready to fight for your rights, the rights that could be taken away, on all levels. To take part in street protests, online campaigns, education, political lobbying, worldwide networking. I hope that this protest will show the strength and unification of American women, and that the Trump administration won’t try to proceed bills that are reducing your laws.”

Katarzyna Pierzchala, 50, Warsaw, Poland
“I was in New York for a few days once and that’s all. But I think that you are in much better situation than we are. Although your new president also has dangerous ideas, your democracy is much stronger, your law system does not allow any fanatics to deprive your rights. Or at least I hope so. I believe it’s important for you to protest. It’s necessary to show your power, to warn your government: ‘Do not even think about it.’”

Zofia Marcinek, 23, Warsaw, Poland
“The United States claims to be a crib of modern democracy. Just make these white (or occasionally orange) guys in suits realize that this democracy is yours, too, and that the only people to decide about women are women themselves. Without them, there is no country and there is no freedom. Realize that — willing or not — America sets standards for more than just itself. Women and girls all over the world are fed your movies, your celebrities, your powerful women. Make brave women. And make this country great again for every girl who ever lives in it. Get angry. Get proud. Basically, do everything the conservative farts would call ‘unladylike.’”

Zuzanna Zwierzchowska, 22, Gdynia, Poland
“I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this, but the reason I’m protesting on March 8 is to not blame myself when everything crumbles. It is very important to not be idle, to fight for each other even if there is no hope, to be proud and try as hard as you can. Even if you can’t win now, you can remain a decent human being for yourself and the people close to you.”

Agnieszka Maciuszek, 20, Stary Sącz, Poland
“The main motivation for this strike is to show solidarity, to show that there are many of you. Show them that you are the force that cannot be stopped so easily.”

Agnieszka Sarna, 43, Olsztyn, Poland
“I couldn’t help but think after Black Monday I, women, we, women, need to be more active if the change is to happen. There are some great, well-educated, strong, brave, intelligent and successful women in the world. But as long as we do not connect with each other, this potential will be wasted. If I want future generations to [live] in peace on this planet, there is no other way, but to wake up and make women rise and unify with other women against destruction, violence, hatred, avidity, and wild competition.

I do not plan to [go] into politics, but together with my female friends we form a circle and work on a very basic level, on our own. We open up and take inspiration from global sisterhood offering what we have to those in need. Inspiring one another. Learning from each other. Supporting each other without judgment. Letting our female wisdom unfold and benefit others.

I want you to know how important for us all it is to see Americans, women of the country which was for decades an inspiration, and which is such a big country, to unify, gather, and express dissent against this expired world order. To know that the movement goes global really makes a difference. We should all continue this way and be ready for change. Nobody will labor and push change through instead of us, so let’s do it, so that the dark womb of the today’s world gives life to new better civilization, just as your filmmaker and lawyer Valarie Kaur said in one of her speeches.”

Magdalena Walczak, 26, Leszno, Poland
“I feel like the only thing we can do is to let us be seen and heard. We need to be loud and united. That is the [attainable] goal, letting the authority know that we are not happy about current situation and we are ready to fight to change it.”

Polish Women Share Advice on Fighting for Abortion Rights