50 students and graduates from the animation department at Lodz Film School have mobilized their medium to protest Poland’s Constitutional Court ruling that forces people with uteruses to carry pregnancies to full term, even if the foetus won’t survive outside the womb. Co-founder of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński, said in 2016 that “We will strive to ensure that even in pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, strongly deformed, women end up giving birth so that the child can be baptised, buried and have a name.” 1

Despite this legislation not yet taking effect, hospitals in Poland have already begun refusing to admit patients with pre-existing appointments to terminate pregnancies with severe and irreversible foetal defects. Executive director of The Federation for Women and Family Planning, Krystyna Kacpura, tells The Guardian that they’ve received dozens of calls from women who have been turned away from healthcare providers. “Most are too distraught to even speak to me. They start talking and break down in tears. These women need psychological help, their mental health is in very poor shape.” 2

Responding to the visceral sensation that accompanies the prospect of losing bodily autonomy, animators from Lodz have united under the banner of #sprzeciwpolek (Polish women defiance) and released the video below within four days of the Constitutional Court ruling. This is quite a feat. Given that animation is typically 8 to 12 frames per second, this means that between 3 840 and 5 760 images were drawn by 50 artists within four days to make the eight minute film.

Punctuated with protest slogans like, “I don’t want to be a coffin” and “I don’t want to obey a law that doesn’t treat me as human,” the piece reaches out and beckons solidarity. The students’ statement is as follows:

“Moved and broken by the situation in our country, we, a group of female and male students from the Animation Department of Lodz Film School have decided to act. We strongly oppose events of recent days, when during this extremely difficult to everyone pandemic time such a shameful ruling has been pushed through. The Constitutional court has issued a ruling that will end legal termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly. We know that many of us are afraid right now, this is why we want to express unity in a just cause. Instead of building more walls, we want to build something human. We hope to help tilt the balance. We encourage everyone from artistic circles and beyond to express objection, to act boldly despite the difficult time. Let’s be in this together.”

Senior research adviser at Amnesty International, Esther Major, has stated that “Legal prohibitions on abortion do not prevent abortion or reduce the rates of abortion; they serve only to damage women’s health by pushing abortions underground or forcing women to travel to foreign countries to access abortion care they need and to which they have a right.” 3

If you’re not a filmmaker, but want to support Polish people with uteruses, Olga Bobrowska from StopTrik Film Festival has recommended the following organisations:

Kasa na Aborcyjny Dream Team (Money for Abortion Dream Team)
Organizers’ statement: “As a consequence of today’s Constitutional Tribunal ruling we expect a massive increase in our workload. From now on access to abortion because of fatal malformations will not be possible anymore in public hospitals in Poland. Now even more people will need to travel abroad for abortion or need information how to safely self-manage their abortions at home.”

Strajk Kobiet Kraków (Women’s Strike Krakow)
They’re raising money for parking fees, flagpoles, batteries for megaphones, posters, pins, legal counsel, ZAiKS fees (permit for holding demonstration fees). If they end up with more money than they need they will redistribute the funds to organizers in smaller towns of Małopolska.

Women Help Women
Send an email to info@womenhelp.org if you wish to offer a donation in solidarity .

Ciocia Basia Group
Ciocia Basia is an activist group in Berlin that can help organise safe abortions for people from countries where it is illegal. They support everyone who needs an abortion, including trans, non-binary and queer people.

Ciocia Wienia
Ciocia Wienia is the Viennese sister organisation of Auntie Basia from Berlin. It’s an informal group of feminist activists who support people from Poland and other countries where access to abortion is difficult or impossible.

Abortion Support Network
Support network for people who need to go abroad to get the procedure.

Endnotes

  1. Hannah Summers, “Polish hospitals begin turning away women seeking abortions,” The Guardian, 31 Oct, 2020.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Alison Abrahams, “Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal Rolls Back Reproductive Rights“, Amnesty International, 22 Oct, 2020.

About The Author

Amanda Barbour is an award-winning film critic, editorial assistant at Senses of Cinema and artistic director of FEM&IST Films. Her work has been published by Koha Ditore, Zippy Frames and Screen Education, among others. She was a Q21 Artist-in-Residence at the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna, then worked with Senator Lidia Thorpe on the campaign trail, who is now the first-ever Indigenous Senator for Victoria.

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