Polish president seen attempting to calm abortion protests with new bill

FILE PHOTO: Polish President and presidential candidate of the Law and Justice (PiS) party Andrzej Duda talks to the media after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of the presidential election, at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, July 12, 2020. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s president said he would propose a bill reintroducing the possibility of terminating a pregnancy due to foetal abnormalities, although only limited to “lethal” defects, in a bid to calm mass protests against a near-total ban on abortion.

The Constitutional Court last week outlawed abortions due to foetal defects - ending the most common of the few legal grounds left for abortion in Poland and setting the country further apart from the European mainstream.

After the decision takes goes into effect, women would only be able to terminate a pregnancy legally in the case of rape, incest or a threat to their life or health. Tens of thousands poured onto streets to protest the ruling.

Demonstrations have turned into an outpouring of anger against the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, blaming it and the Roman Catholic Church for the ruling. One opinion poll has shown a steep fall in support for PiS.

President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling nationalists, said he would propose a bill allowing for termination of pregnancy in the most serious cases. PiS has a majority in the lower house of parliament and so it has the power to adopt it.

“When prenatal tests or other medical indications show 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, regardless of the therapeutic measures used,” Duda said in a statement outlining the option when abortion would be allowed.

“This is an attempt to soften the situation for PiS, but no sane person should fall for it,” activist and leftist lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus told Reuters.

“It is too late now for such proposal. People demand abortion to be legal now,” Klementyna Suchanow, one of the organizers of recent protests, told Reuters as tens of thousands were due to protest on Friday evening again.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Alicja Ptak; Editing by Giles Elgood