By Hilary White
July 31, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The dramatically dropping abortion rate in Poland is due to the concerted work throughout the Communist period of lay pro-life activists, says the vice-president of the Polish Federation of Pro-life Movements. Antoni Zieba was interviewed by the Rome-based Catholic news service, Zenit, and told them that Poland, a deeply Catholic nation, has retained a deep sense of the sacredness of human life under successive totalitarian regimes.
Polish law allows abortion in cases of rape or foetal abnormalities. Although Poland and Spain have similar abortion laws, in 2006 Spain suffered 98,500 abortions, while in Poland that same year, there were only 360 abortions. This marks a massive reduction from the 1990s, when the number of abortions recorded was 100,000 a year. During the Communist period, it is estimated that the total number of abortions was over 600,000 a year.
Zieba, who also heads the apostolate World Prayer for Life, explains this disparity simply, saying that Poland enjoys a pro-life culture so that while the law allows it, few Poles would consider abortion. He puts this down to the extensive apostolic work carried out by lay Catholics during the Communist period and which was carried on during communism’s decline.
“Within the structures of the Catholic Church, we have engaged in intense activity in defense of the life of the unborn.”
Throughout the Communist and post-Communist period pro-life groups in Poland have distributed material showing the “value of boys and girls from conception” and made known the “true history of abortion in Poland.” The books and materials, distributed largely through the churches and schools, “have had a profound impact on Polish society.”
Zieba pointed out that, while most of the world has been convinced that abortion is the key to women’s emancipation, in Poland, through the work of the pro-life movement, it is still remembered that it is a tool of genocide popular with racist and inhuman totalitarian regimes. Abortion was first instituted in Poland by the Nazi occupiers in 1943, whose stated goal was to exterminate the Slavic peoples under their control. It was continued by the Soviet Communists.
World Prayer for Life, founded during the Communist regime in 1980, identifies abortion with the twentieth century’s “never-ending mass attacks on human life”: the first and second World Wars, “the terrible crime of the Holocaust”, Communist revolutions, euthanasia and terrorism. World Prayer for Life reminds pro-life people that God “is prepared to help us eliminate this terrible evil” and asks for regular prayer to end the evil of abortion, that they say has killed nearly a billion unborn children around the world through the 20th century.
Zieba said that the prayer of those determined to defend human life has made the difference in Poland. “In Poland, a mass movement of prayer and spiritual adoption of the unborn has developed – a real crusade for the protection of the conceived. These prayers have changed the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens and reinforced respect for life.”
He decried the ongoing pressure from the United Nations and the European Union to force Poland to liberalise the abortion law, saying this is particularly upsetting to older people who remember first hand the genocidal origins of legal abortion.
“How can Poland be asked to restore a law in favour of abortion, imposed by the two worst dictatorships of the 20th century?” he said.