Some Polish women walk out of Catholic churches to protest bishops' call for stricter abortion laws

(Photo: REUTERS / Jakub Ociepa / Agencja Gazeta)A woman with umbrella walks past an image of late Pope John Paul II, part of a decoration preparation, at Old Town Market in Krakow, southern Poland April 23, 2011. Polish Pope John Paul II was beatified on May 1, 2011 in Rome.

Catholic bishops have called for a permanent ban on abortions Poland to mark the 1,050th anniversary of the country's conversion to Christianity, but some Catholic women's groups are fighting such measures.

"Each person's life is protected by the fifth commandment, do not kill. So the attitude of Catholics is clear and unchanging," Poland's bishops' conference said, The Irish Catholic reported.

"In this jubilee year of Poland's baptism, we urge all people of goodwill, believers and nonbelievers, to take action to ensure full legal protection of unborn lives," said the bishops asking lawmakers to take the legislative initiative.

At the same time the UK Catholic weekly newspaper, The Tablet reported that several groups of Polish Catholic women recently walked out of church services in Warsaw and Gdansk to protest against a proposed tightening of the country's abortion laws.

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It cited a video posted on Facebook showing women leaving Warsaw church of Saint Anna and shouting "scandal" as a priest read out a letter from Polish Catholic bishops in favour of the total ban on abortion.

A similar church service walkout took place in Gdansk St Mary´s cathedral.

"Every woman, every person has a right to choose. I do not push anyone to make an abortion but I think we cannot simply ban abortion in cases of women in various difficult situations," said one of the Warsaw protesters, Iga Zagrzejewska, to the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

"We have no right to force this ban on women," said Anna Zawadzka, another woman who walked out of the church service in Warsaw.

The Tablet reported that Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

The country allows the termination of a pregnancy only at an early stage and when it threatens the life or health of the mother, when the baby is likely to be permanently handicapped or when pregnancy originates from a crime such as rape or incest.

The Catholic bishops have said Poland's 1993 law, which allows abortion in cases of rape, incest, severe foetal damage or threats to a woman's life, is unsustainable and should be replaced by a total ban.

They encouraged politicians to implement such a ban while supporting "programmes to ensure concrete help for parents of sick and handicapped children and those conceived through rape."

Catholics account for the overwhelming majority of people in Poland and in the final years of communist rule the church was a powerfull moral aribter, a role that has waned in recent decades.

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