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Polish Movement: Protesting Against Abortion Restrictions With Art

With some of the most strict abortion laws in Europe, Poland deciding on establishing even more restrictions caused people of all genders in Poland to take a stand against what they deemed as inhuman and a violation of human rights.

Due to the fact that the Catholic church played a prominent role in the lives of many in Poland, it is demonstrated by a survey recorded by CBOS that 65% of Poles are against abortions. Despite this reality, polls also illustrates that many are against the new, stricter regulations that rules even abortions of births with severe defects are illegal. Established in the 22nd of October, 2020, outcry was expressed by both men and women, resulting in protests and marches being a few courses of actions people partook in Poland and around the world.

Helena Ludkiewicz on Instagram

Taking a stand together, the government was convinced to delay the clampdown on abortion, making the future uncertain. A notable instance that resulted in this delay was the protest of Warsaw on October 30th of 2020 (four years after the protests of October 2016) that involved about 150,000 protesters across Warsaw. Other demonstrations include marches in the cities of Kraków, Szczecin, and Łódź. During many of these events, black umbrellas, lighting bolt signs, The Handmaid's Tale costumes, and coat hangers and all donned or brought by demonstrators because these are some of the major symbols of Poland's pro-choice movement.

Artists, being well known throughout history as a radical group that tend to break social barriers, also supported this movement whether it is through performance, photography, or drawing being a few examples. Many took to their social media platforms to spread awareness of this issue, using their craft to create greater momentum for the movement.

One artist is Karolina Micuła, who creates performances that falls between theater and music. Also being one of the main coordinators of Strajk Kobiet (polish for women’s strike), she helped plan one of the biggest protest of the movement to date: the Warsaw march. Establishing her art form, she had previously participated in a 2016 protest when she got the idea to stand topless on a stage with the polish flag painted on her, initiating her first performance. In 2020, Micula mirrors her past self and performs a similar demonstrating during a recent protest as a way that declares to others the importance of such an occasion. By sharing pictures of her performing onto her social media, many others were able to witness the event though they were not physically present at the time.


Similarly, artist Agnieszka Węglarska took a stand against the stricter legislation when she shared her drawing of a shirt dripping with blood on a hanger. Utilizing the symbols that were greatly associated when the movement, Węglarska illustrates a powerful minimalist image that is painful yet powerful. Providing her own description, the 40 year old Warsaw-based artist explains,

“The truth is that rich women will go abroad for medical treatments, and poor women will [have an abortion] underground, with wires and hangers...Myself, my whole family, and all my friends are terrified of what is happening to this country.”

Illustration: Agnieszka Węglarska

Photographer Joanna Helena, with akin views used coat hangers as well to reveal to audiences the dire situation many women are in, and more may be in, if more severe abortion laws gets approved. The striking imagery of her photograph of a women coming out of the mist dress in all black and upholding coat hangers above her head supports her statement,

“What’s happening in Poland right now affects everyone. There’s a woman in every family, there are women who love, and who are loved. It’s not just about minorities anymore. When something like this affects literally everyone, it becomes the trigger point and brings a wave of resistance. The energy is powerful, and the solidarity breaks previously existing boundaries between people. This is what a revolution looks like, and its symbol is a red thunderbolt.”

Follow Joanna Helena on Instagram.

Though all of these artists expresses their unique take on the women's strike for abortion rights with all different forms of art, they all are united under one cause: to give women more freedom and say on what they want to do with their own bodies. Combined with many more artists like Micuła, Węglarska, and Helena, the impact is significant to how widespread the news of this movement is worldwide. This shows that through actions individuals can take, when standing together under a purpose, ripples can be made bigger until the waves can no longer be ignored.






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