Canberra's Polish community are holding a protest on Sunday to denounce a "draconian" proposal to ban abortions and criminalise the morning after pill and in vitro fertilisation in Poland.
The new bill to tighten the country's abortion laws, already some of the most restrictive in Europe, was introduced by radical pro-life groups backed by the Catholic Church and officially supported by the leadership of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
If passed the plan would also increase the maximum jail term for those who perform abortions from two years to five.
Polish-born Dana Olejniczak, who left Lodz and emigrated to Canberra in 1987, said it was unthinkable a collection of signatures tabled in a citizen's bill could give way for such a wholesale dismantling of women's rights in a central European nation.
Shocked by the thought this change may go ahead without challenge, she organised a peaceful protest to be held outside the Polish Embassy on Sunday, April 17 from 2pm - 3pm.
"This is not about being against the church, we are all Catholic and go to church," she said. "We are standing up to say this law would traumatise Polish women."
She said the new law would increase demand on already stretched health and social services, deter women from reporting sexual crimes and cause a surge in unsafe abortion practices.
Before having her two daughters, Mrs Olejniczak had life-saving surgery during an ectopic pregnancy.
She said it was shocking that under the new law a woman would be forced to continue such a pregnancy until complications became severe enough that her life was "directly" in danger.
Patricia Olejniczak, Dana's Canberra-born daughter, said the "roll back" abandoned the compromise achieved in 1993, which permitted terminations in cases where a woman's life or health is endangered by the continuation of pregnancy, when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, or when the foetus is seriously malformed.
"The concern is when you start to take away people's power to control what happens to their bodies it makes you fearful of what's next," she said.
"I was born in Australia in 1988 after my parents came here but this upsets me because we could easily all still be in Poland. It could have been my choices taken away from me but instead my cousins' are, our friends' are, so it's a big concern."
Amnesty Poland campaign co-ordinator Weronika Rokicka said there had been demonstrations in more than 10 cities and many gestures of solidarity from abroad.
But there was plenty of work to do targeting Polish MPs to vote the draft down.
She said while the Catholic church had strong influence on government, it was crucial to emphasise the Polish government's obligations within its constitution and through international law.
Ms Olejniczak said in the wake of economic and migration crises there had been a marked rise in the popularity of neo-conservative views in Poland.
"The propaganda over there is so strong. A lot of women in Poland don't know that there are rallies happening across the world against this," she said.
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