Remember when that sea of black umbrellas made international headlines last fall?
In Warsaw, women are fighting for their reproductive rights. According to NBC News, the movement even has a hashtag: #CoatHangerRebellion.
The tipping point that sparked these demonstrations–of thousands of women and allies demonstrating in the town center–was when a proposed abortion ban entered in the Polish legislature in September 2016. The protests were also part of a larger organized campaign, called #czarnyprotest (or “#blackprotest”), where people posted selfies on social media dressed in all black clothing.
In the Central European country, which has always been traditionally Catholic, abortion was only legalized less than 25 years ago–in 1993. Even today, a woman has to meet one of three exceptions in order to pursue an abortion procedure. The pregnancy must jeopardize the mother’s health; the pregnancy must be a result of rape, incest, or other criminal act; or the unborn fetus must be malformed.
As a result, lawmakers voted the bill down on October 6th with plans for a counterproposal. Nonetheless, these demonstrations proved everyday citizens can make a political difference. Activists Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk and Barbara Nowacka, who both played prominent roles in organizing these large demonstrations, have since been listed as one of the 100 most influential thinkers of 2016 by Foreign Policy magazine.
Additionally, Polish protests inspired the International Women’s Day Strike 4 Repeal demonstrations in Ireland. According to the Irish Times, the protests brought awareness to the repeal of the Eighth amendment in the country’s Constitution, which “asserts that the right to life of an unborn child is equal to that of its mother.”
Although abortion access is more accessible in the United States, access is still in jeopardy. Even 44 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Cosmopolitan reports, “the end of Roe v. Wade is a real possibility,” under the Trump administration. According to Mother Jones, four states–including Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Florida–introduced late-term abortion bans as of mid-January of this year. Many others states have proposed similar anti-abortion measures, which ultimately criminalize and can incarcerate pregnant women.
So what can pro-choice activists in the United States learn from the Coat Hanger Rebellion? Organize, organize, organize.
The Women’s March on Washington was a defiant response to this year’s inauguration, bringing hundreds of thousands of women and allies together, which led to A Day Without a Woman strike on International Women’s Day this past March. To keep the momentum going, women must keep fighting for abortion access for all, not only some.
How do we fight? Proven tactics have included becoming a clinic escort, committed monthly donor, phone banker, political activist, fundraising volunteer, or more. The opportunities are endless, because the resistance is well-needed. To get involved, there are many organizations in need of volunteers, including but not limited to: Lady Parts Justice, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the National Network of Abortion Funds. For instance, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has informative guides on contacting your local representatives.