European Parliament says Polish government influenced abortion decision
WARSAW (Reuters) – The European Parliament on Thursday accused the Polish nationalist government of improperly influencing a court that imposed a near-total ban on abortion, and said it showed the rule of law had collapsed Poland.
The head of the court fired back, accusing the European Parliament of “unprecedented” interference in Polish affairs – the latest in a series of clashes between the institutions in Warsaw and Brussels.
Hundreds of thousands of Poles have taken to the streets since an October 22 Constitutional Court ruling severely restricted Poland’s already restrictive abortion laws.
The protests saw a wider wave of anger against Poland’s nationalist leaders, with many critics criticizing the government’s judicial reforms which they say allowed the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to choose the judges.
Since coming to power in 2015, the PiS has clashed with the European Union over judicial reforms, which the bloc says violate democratic standards. PiS has dismissed such accusations.
Poland and Hungary vetoed the EU budget and a COVID-19 stimulus fund this month, after member states sought to tie the funds to respect for the rule of law.
The motion by Members of the European Parliament described the abortion decision as “a further example of the political takeover of the judiciary and the systemic collapse of the rule of law in Poland”.
“The aforementioned decision was pronounced by judges elected by and totally dependent on the politicians of the coalition led by the PiS (Law and Justice)”, he added.
The resolution called on EU institutions to do more to support sexual and reproductive health rights in member states and to support grassroots and civil society groups that promote the rule of law.
It was adopted by 455 votes in favor, 145 against and 71 abstentions.
Julia Przylebska, president of the Polish Constitutional Court, accused the legislators of the European Parliament of interfering in internal affairs.
“MEPs come within the domain of the independence of the Constitutional Court … which violates the separation of powers, and therefore the foundations of democracy,” she added.
The Polish government has yet to release the court ruling on abortion, which means it is not yet enforceable. PiS says the government is waiting for the court to provide a more detailed justification.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Additional reporting by Anna Koper; Editing by Peter Graff and Andrew Heavens)