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Protesters target Catholic churches across Poland in demonstrations against near-total abortion ban 

Protesters targeted Catholic churches across Poland on Sunday in the fourth straight day of upheaval against a near-total ban on abortion in the EU country.

Demonstrators chanted 'we've had enough!' and 'barbarians' inside a church in the western city of Poznan, according to a video clip posted on social media, in scenes that were repeated across the deeply Catholic country.

The protesters were reacting to Thursday's ruling by Poland's constitutional court that an existing law allowing the abortion of damaged fetuses was 'incompatible' with the constitution.

The country's Constitutional Tribunal ruled in favour of a ban on abortions in cases of fetal defects, tightening Poland's restrictive abortion laws even further. The decision means that abortions will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's health is at risk.

Protesters targeted Catholic churches across Poland on Sunday in the fourth straight day of upheaval against a near-total ban on abortion in the Catholic EU country. Pictured: People take part in a protest at the Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Poznan

The verdict is in line with the position of Poland's powerful Roman Catholic episcopate and the governing nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Protesters, brandishing placards bearing expletives and others saying 'I wish I could abort my government', clashed with police and supporters of the ban outside a landmark church in central Warsaw.

Local media also ran pictures of graffiti on church walls in various cities and towns reading 'Women's hell' - the main slogan of the protests.

Protests took place across the country, with many being confronted by lines of police. Pictured: People stand in front of a Police cordon as they take part in a protest in front of the Christ the King Archcathedral in Katowice, southern Poland

Last Friday, the country's Constitutional Tribunal ruled in favour of a ban on abortions in cases of fetal defects, tightening Poland's restrictive abortion laws even further. The decision means that abortions will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's health is at risk

Pictured: An aerial view of thousands of protesters during the fourth day of demonstrations against the Constitutional Court ruling on tightening the abortion law in front of Krakow's Archbishop's Palace on October 25. Thousands can be seen gathering outside the building which has a line of police vans in front of it

A man stands in the middle of a Poznan church with his fists raised after leaflets with a feminist symbol adopted by the protesters were strewn across the floor in protest of Poland's restrictive abortion laws

Thousands of people - most of them women - also rallied in the cities of Gdansk, Krakow, Lodz, and Rzeszow, and in dozens of traditionally more conservative towns. 

They echoed mass protests held across Poland since Thursday in defiance of strict limits on public gathering under anti-coronavirus measures.

In the city of Poznan, dozens of women interrupted a service and held banners in front of the altar while chanting to the congregation 'We are sick of this', according to media reports and social media. 

Despite the ban on gatherings of more than five people, approximately 4,000 demonstrators gathered in the southern city of Katowice.

Some shouted 'this is war', and 'human law, not ecclesiastical law', according to media reports.

Opponents of the ruling argue it puts women's lives at risk by forcing them to carry unviable pregnancies but supporters insist it will prevent the abortion of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

People take part in 'The Silent Women's March' to protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Poznan, Poland

A woman wearing clothes resembling a burka and the robes of a handmaid from 'Handmaid's Tale' - with a coat hanger around her neck - protests on the fourth day of demonstrations against Poland's abortion laws in front of Krakow's Archbishop's Palace on October 25

Members of a far-right organisation and police remove women from a Warsaw church who was protesting outside against its support of the abortion laws in the Catholic country

People protest in front of a church in Warsaw against Poland's abortion laws. The country's Constitutional Tribunal last week ruled in favour of a ban on abortions in cases of fetal defects, tightening Poland's already restrictive abortion laws

The country of 38 million people sees fewer than 2,000 legal abortions a year in Poland - which even before the ruling enforced some of the strictest termination restrictions in Europe - and the vast majority of those are carried out due to damaged fetuses.

But women's groups estimate that up to 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.

Women's Strike, the organiser of the protests, said there would be more rallies in the coming week - urging people to blockade cities on Monday, and calling on women do perform a nationwide strike on Wednesday.

The country of 38 million people sees fewer than 2,000 legal abortions a year in Poland - which even before the ruling enforced some of the strictest termination restrictions in Europe - and the vast majority of those are carried out due to damaged fetuses

A protester is seen on the floor after she was removed from a church where they were protesting last week's abortion verdict - which is final and cannot be repealed

People walk by a painted feminist sign during the fourth day of protests against the Constitutional Court ruling on tightening the abortion law at Krakow's UNESCO listed Main Square on October 25

Last week's abortion verdict - which is final and cannot be repealed - drew condemnation from several human rights groups in Europe and the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights organisation, with Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic calling it 'a sad day for #WomensRights'. 

Donald Tusk, a Pole who currently leads the European People's Party after presiding the European Council, called the timing of the abortion issue 'political wickedness'.

'Throwing the topic of abortion and a ruling by a pseudo-court into the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynical,' he tweeted.

A wall of the High School of the Piarist Order painted with Feminist slogans is pictured as protests against the Constitutional Court ruling on tightening the abortion law enter the fourth day on October 25

Police detain a man who was protesting in front of church against church support for tightening Poland's already restrictive abortion law in Warsaw. He is seen holding a coat hanger and what looks like a wooden horn

Members of far-right organisation and demonstrators stand off with police in the middle during protests in front of a Warsaw church

The constitutional court's decision also drew condemnation from rights groups from across the world.

'[The] decision represents a total ban on abortion in Poland as 98 percent of legal terminations in Poland are related to fetal malformations,' Krystyna Kacpura, head of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, said after the court's ruling.

'It's a disgrace from the Polish state towards half of the population, women. We'll never forget it.'

Two rows of police are seen blocking off protesters in front of the Christ the King Archcathedral in Katowice, southern Poland

A huge crowd of people stand in front of a Police cordon as they take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in front of the Christ the King Archcathedral in Katowice, southern Poland

Kacpura said the situation for women with modest means was particularly concerning.

'They will just be left with various dangerous methods like abortions performed by non-qualified people with methods I don't even want to discuss,' she said.

'We've simply been imposed Ceausescu's era,' she added, referring to Romania's late dictator who severely restricted abortions to try and boost fertility rates. 

Meanwhile, the Polish presidency and Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, welcomed the verdict.

The constitutional court has been reformed by the PiS government, and has since been accused of counting many judges loyal to the party in its ranks.

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