WARSAW, POLAND, August 31, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An historic Polish bill banning all abortions was rejected on Wednesday by Poland’s parliament in a narrow 191-186 vote, with five abstentions. Seventy-eight lawmakers were not present for the vote.

Polish March for Life spokesperson Anna Borkowska-Kniolek told LifeSiteNews that the ruling Civic Platform Party (PO) “introduced party discipline” to compel its members to vote against the bill, “even though it had previously permitted its members to vote according to their conscience on ideological issues.”

The pro-life leader said, however, that Polish pro-lifers “appreciate” the actions of the 15 PO lawmakers who bucked the party whip and voted in favor of the bill anyway, even though they were unable to tip the scales in its favor.

The historic pro-life bill was the result of a massive grassroots campaign. To bring the abortion ban before Parliament under Poland’s political system, the sponsors needed to collect 100,000 signatures within three months.  They got 600,000 in two weeks.

Under the current law, abortions can only be obtained where the child is diagnosed with a serious defect or disease, where the mother is diagnosed with a health problem, or where the pregnancy resulted from “illegal activity.” The bill had sought to get rid of these exceptions, rationalizing that murder is not permissible under any circumstances.

In July, Polish lawmakers voted 254-151 against a motion by the pro-abortion Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) to scrap the abortion ban. Earlier this month, however, a non-binding commission vote of Poland’s parliament rejected the bill by a vote of 45-22, as lawmakers from the SLD and the governing Civic Platform Party joined forces opposing it.

During her party’s announcement of its opposition to the bill today, PO lawmaker Janina Okragly argued that the existing abortion provisions, which she said were “developed with broad participation of many backgrounds,” “are accepted by the vast majority of our society,” and do not “evoke emotion,” unlike the total abortion ban being debated.

Boleslaw Piecha of the Law and Justice (PiS) Party, however, was outspoken in his defense of the bill’s effort to amend existing abortion law. “This bill was sponsored by 18 lawmakers, and supported by 600,000,” he pointed out.

All 160 PiS lawmakers present for Wednesday’s ballot voted for the abortion ban.

Twenty-two lawmakers present from the governing coalition’s smaller Polish People’s Party, which allowed its members a free vote over the ban, cast their vote against. The pro-abortion Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) Party, a remnant of former Polish communists, also voted against the bill.

Despite Wednesday’s defeat, pro-life commentator and Fronda.pl editor Tomasz Terlikowski expressed optimism about future Polish pro-life efforts.

Despite “the undeniable defeat of the entire project, it was a huge success,” Terlikowski said in an interview with LSN. “Success is the introduction to public debate, unthinkable in other European countries, of a total ban on abortion.”

“The defenders of life in Poland, among whom I count myself, certainly will not rest. In the next Parliament we will re-submit the bill banning all abortions,” he said.

Polish parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 9.  In anticipation of the elections, the PRO Foundation, the organization behind the abortion ban, will “certify” lawmakers and parliamentary candidates based on their pro-life, pro-family support.

Also on Wednesday, the lower house of Poland’s parliament defeated a pro-abortion bill introduced by the SLD. The bill, which sought to legalize abortion through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, provide government funding of contraception, and require sexual education in schools, was defeated overwhelmingly by a vote of 369-31, with two abstentions.