Analysis: LGBT rights and abortion generate heat but no light in Polish politics

Polish politics and media are full of discussions about abortion and LGBT rights. But these discussions are futile as there is no chance of them being resolved.

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The discussions about abortion and LGBT rights are creating a lot more heat than light. Neither of the two parties which can realistically expect to lead a government and parliamentary majority, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) and the main opposition party, the Civic Platform (PO), are interested in any change on these issues.

In 1997 the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion for social reasons violated parts of the consitution that guaranteed the right to life. In that way the legislative compromise arrived in the 1990’s on the basis of which abortion was only possible on the grounds of the life of the mother being threatened, rape, incest or severe damage to the foetus became vey hard to shift.

The ruling PiS has been under pressure from the Catholic church to tighten the abortion law but has so far refused to do so. The PO has on the other had been reticent to propose any liberalisation for fear or losing Catholic votes.

On LGBT rights the PO has made encouraging noises on civil partnerships but mayors backed by the party in Lublin, Kielce and Rzeszow have actually attempted to stop Pride marches taking place and the party has ruled out any backing for same sex mariage or adoption of children. PiS has criticised any notion of sex education on LGBT for the young and promotion of “LGBT ideology”, but President Andrzej Duda has said that some form of civil partnership arrangments that allow people to have inheritance and powers of attorney may be looked at.

The Polish constitution not only protects life, it also defines marriage as being exclusively a union of man and woman and gives the parents the right to bring up their children in accordance with their beliefs and values. Since a ⅔ majority is required to change the constitution it is hard to see how either same-sex marriage nor compulsory sex education in schools could be implemented in Poland.

It is The Left who will make both these issues a central part of its campaign. They will do so not only because one of its leaders and probable Presidential candidate is a gay rights activist. It is The Left that wants to make church-state relations an issue in the election and because on economic and social issues, it has lost ground to the ruling PiS which has implemented an unprecedented number of social transfer programmes.

But The Left could at best be a junior partner in a coalition with the PO. A coalition that has virtually no chance of winning a 2/3 majority in Parliament. So on abortion and LGBT rights Poland will be living through ‘Groundhog Day’ for a long time to come.