Abortion rights protest held for 10th day in Poland

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Demonstrators held anti-government protests across Poland for the 10th straight day Saturday in response to the tightening of one of Europe’s strictest abortion laws.

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The latest protests, though smaller than in previous days, showed the determination and discontent of thousands of Poles after five years under the right-wing government of the ruling Law and Justice party.

In Warsaw, a crowd gathered near the house of party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski to watch a street performance by actors and singers.

Warsaw police said 37 people were detained during a Friday protest that city authorities estimated at about 100,000 participants, at a time when anti-COVID-19 regulations ban gatherings larger than five. Poland reported a new daily record of almost 21,900 new confirmed cases.

On Friday, the protesters started from various points in the city, converged on a downtown roundabout and walked to Kaczynski's house, but they were stopped some distance away from the residence by a heavy police presence.

They were attacked by far-right groups with firecrackers, but police contained the confrontation, Warsaw police spokesman Sylwester Marczak said.

“There was aggressive behavior on the part of soccer pseudo-fans (soccer hooligans) and also between the two sides, that’s why police prevention units took action,” Marczak said. He described the overall protest as “very peaceful considering the number of participants.”

Noisy but disciplined marches were also held in other cities. More protests are planned next week.

Demonstrators voicing anger at Poland's conservative government and Catholic Church have assembled every day since the country's constitutional court ruled Oct. 22 to outlaw the abortion of fetuses with congenital defects.

The court preserved the provisions of Poland's 1993 abortion law, one of Europe's strictest, that permit abortions when a pregnancy threatens a woman's health or results from rape or incest.