On Monday Polish women across the European Union took a day-long strike to demonstrate against a proposed piece of government legislation seeking to ban abortion.

Women were encouraged not to show up at work or otherwise show their opposition to the proposed ban on abortion by wearing black or not sending their daughters to school.

On twitter, the protesters gathered themselves under the hashtags #CzarnyProtest and #BlackMonday.

Following the example of Icelandic women from 40 years ago, thousands of Polish women have taken leave from work today to protest against the total ban on abortion in the country.

A huge crowd of women took to the streets of the capital city of Poland, Warsaw, in a pro-choice march on what they are calling “Black Monday”, or “CzarnyProtest”, that followed the protests which took place during the weekend.

The city hall in Czestochowa in southern Poland allowed female staff to take the day off on Monday, while several businesses closed for the protests, according to BBC.

However, official data about the total number of women taking part in the action are still unclear.

The demonstrations extended to many major cities around Europe. People in Berlin, Dusseldorf and Belfast held rallies supporting the Polish pro-choice movement, while protests were also planned in other cities like Dublin and London for later in the day.

New Europe followed the Women Strike protest in Brussels, where the Kongres Kobiet w Brukseli (Congress of Women in Brussels) demonstrated first in front of the European roundabout at Schuman, where the European Commission and Council headquarters stand, and then rallied to the nearby Polish Representation to the European Union.

The protest saw around several hundred participants, carrying banners and waving hangers.

New Europe talked to some of the demonstrators, to find out more about what had drawn them to the streets of Brussels.

Iwona, a young Polish woman said she is participating in the march because “women should have the right to decide about their life. I am not asking the complete legalization of abortion, I’m asking to maintain the compromise we have reached in 1993 between the Church and the country”.

“Some of the women here want complete liberalization of abortion. I think for this we need more debate and more education in school. I am here to protect [against] the actual legislation from [becoming] stricter”.

Asked about the significance of the hanger, Iwona said that the hanger is metaphorical. “Very often women in countries where abortion is completely illegal are forced to proceed with it. We don’t want this to happen to Poland”.

polish-demonstrators

A young university student, Agnieszka, told New Europe that her message to the government was one of equality. “They are completely disregarding us as women, and we cannot accept this. The current abortion law is already one of the most restrictive in the world. Criminalizing abortion will not solve anything”.

Agnieszka further pointed to the political roots of the law and its backers. “This law is being pushed by extremists. These activists are very right-wing oriented, with radical pro-life approach”. Commenting on how Poland should proceed to legislate abortion, the university student said she champions complete liberalization. “The current abortion law is not efficient. A lot of abortions are carried out illegally. Our access to contraception is also restricted, we demand more rights!”.

Sabina, speaking about the significance of having such a demonstration in Brussels, so far away from the day-to-day life of Poland, talked of expressing solidarity.  “We are a lot of Polish people here in [the] Brussels [demonstration] because we want to show our solidarity to Polish women, and also because we might return to Poland to find out our life has gotten worse”.

“I would not feel safe if I had to carry out an abortion in Poland, I would prefer to do it here. Conscientious objection is also a massive problem in Poland since a lot of doctors refuse to carry out abortions, forcing women to [turn] to illegal practices.”