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By now, it’s become a distinctive symbol in Poland: a silhouette of a woman’s face picked out in black or white, and emblazoned with a jagged bolt of lightning from the top of the head to the neck.

The logo for "Strajk Kobiet" (Polish Woman’s Strike), a social movement which organised the renowned Black Monday national strike in Poland against an abortion ban in 2016, the symbol has been much used in street protests in the country in recent years, as the ruling populist party Law and Justice has attempted to crack down ever further on abortion rights.

Last month, it was everywhere once again – but this time, that lightning bolt had transformed into a symbol on a face mask, and the logo was transplanted from the street to the screen. As a new bill which could restrict abortion even further was debated, Polish women found new ways to continue their protests for abortion rights, even in the face of lockdown measures caused by COVID-19.

According to Liliana Religa, the Promotions and Communications Coordinator from the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning – an NGO which fights for reproductive justice – the proposal of new restrictions on abortion has come alongside a deteriorating situation for women in Poland.

“In general,” she summarises, “women’s rights have been undermined. The ultra-conservative government is neglecting their duties with respect to anti-discrimination and anti-violence measures. Instead they are supporting family mainstreaming policies, and the state of reproductive health and rights could be described as institutional violence.”

She lists the current restrictions: no formal sexual education, the worst access to contraception in Europe, no support for people dealing with infertility, women forced to give birth in pain.

But abortion rights are an ongoing struggle. Poland has some of the strictest abortion rules in Europe, with the procedure only allowed in three instances: fetal malformation, a pregnancy resulting from rape and incest, or a threat to the mother’s health. Legal abortions in Poland, where the population is 38 million, number only around 1,000 a year.

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