Poland abortion protesters acquitted after interrupting Mass

A group of 32 pro-abortion protesters in Poland have been acquitted of “maliciously interfering with a religious act” after storming into a cathedral during Mass.

The protest took place on October 25, 2020, after Poland passed legislation protecting preborn children with disabilities from abortion. Before the legislation, virtually 100% of abortions in Poland were committed on preborn children with disabilities. And babies who survived the abortion process were often left to die.

Yet many abortion advocates still spent the autumn of 2020 protesting, including in Poznań Cathedral. Mass was in progress when the protesters began rushing towards the altar, chanting “My Body, My Choice” in Polish. The priest asked them not to interrupt Mass, but this request was ignored as they stood in front of the altar, throwing papers into the air and yelling.

The leaflets they threw into the air promoted abortion, and their signs read “Abortion is not a sin.”

Ultimately, police had to be called in order to get the protest to stop, and prosecutors charged all 32 protesters with “maliciously interfering with the public performance of a religious act jointly and in cooperation,” which carries a sentence of a fine, community service, or up to two years in prison.

According to Notes From Poland, one of the protesters, Arkadiusz K., said he participated in the protest because “[i]t’s not the first time that… the Catholic church is interfering in my life and the life of my friends and colleagues.”

Yet a Poznań district court judge found them all not guilty.

“These were the largest demonstrations in Poland since the political changes in 1989 and, in the opinion of some commentators, the largest street protests in the history of Poland,” Judge Joanna Knobel said, and insinuated that the archbishop of Poznań, Stanisław Gądecki, invited the protests because he expressed support for the pro-life legislation. She further claimed that “the evidence did not show that their intentions were motivated by malice, i.e. the desire to annoy, hurt, or cause unpleasant feelings in another person.”

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Knobel seemed to indicate that she has pro-abortion leanings herself, saying the ruling “in effect violated women’s rights,” that the “church hierarchs approved of that ruling,” and that “constitutional separation of state and church is commonly violated.” And yet despite all of that, she said the protesters were not being disrespectful of the church.

“None of the defendants showed contempt for the performance of the religious act itself, nor for the place where this religious act was performed,” she said. “The protesters wanted to show what they think about the disputed issue, to express their position on the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal, the archbishop’s words and the church’s involvement in politics.”

Prosecutors said they are still considering whether or not to appeal the ruling.

Protests have continued in Poland since then, including occasional violent protests, though pro-lifers vowed to keep fighting. “Despite these attacks, it is our duty to preach the truth,” Fundacja Pro board member Mariusz Dzierżawski said in 2022. “The bandits who support abortion are also ready to attack those who have already been born.”

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