Students gathered at the University of Sheffield on Saturday to protest the strict abortion laws in Poland.
Last October, a Polish Constitutional Tribunal imposed a near-total abortion ban, except for in cases of rape, incest or when pregnancy threatens a mother’s health or life.
Protests have erupted across Poland in the last week due to a 30-year-old woman named Izabela dying of sepsis 22 weeks into her pregnancy, with life-saving care being prevented by doctors who feared breaking these new laws.
Magdalena Bakalarz, 20, an International Relations and Politics student, said: “I want to show there are still people who don’t agree to what is happening in Poland. It’s not the majority, because there are thousands of people protesting in Poland and thousands more protesting in other countries. And I think that’s important because it creates unity.
“It’s important for me because it’s happening in my home country. I’m not sure if I want to stay in the UK or go back, but it frightens me what the government is actually doing and that all of my laws are being totally violated.
“I’m afraid for myself and for my friends because I don’t know what would happen if I wouldn’t be able to have an abortion to save my own life.”
The students gathered to collect signatures on a petition to the Polish Parliament that proposes a new law to provide everyone free access to abortion. It will be sent off to Poland in hopes of reaching the 100,000 signatures required to be considered in parliament.
Asia Szczepaniak, 22, said, “I left Poland for the UK because I was sick of conservative ruling. But at the same time, especially with last year’s protest, it makes me realise that there are many people who agree with me and have the strength to fight against it.
“Why should I resign from my home country because I don’t agree with the main ruling party? It makes me want to go back and be myself, start conversations with people, and be part of the change.
“Politics is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Stand by what you believe in, keep respectfully talking to other people and explaining why you believe what you believe in, and don’t just expect immediate results. There will be results, you just have to be persistent and patient.”