From Poland to Florida, women’s rights are being crushed
AS POLAND’S ABORTION LAWS TIGHTEN, WOMEN TAKE THE BLAME FOR FALLING BIRTH RATE
Across Poland, women’s rights activists are holding their breath for elections later this year, when they hope to overturn the country’s ever more restrictive abortion laws. The fifth trial of Justyna Wydrzyńska took place at Praga Południe District Court in Warsaw this week, and the feeling in the capital is one of frustration and worry. The 47-year-old reproductive rights activist faces up to three years in jail for aiding a medical abortion in 2020, and if she’s convicted it will set a dangerous precedent for the criminalization of people who support those in need of a safe abortion.
Monday’s court heard testimony from “Ania,” a survivor of domestic abuse who asked Wydrzyńska to help her access abortion pills at the height of the coronavirus lockdown. She gave testimony in front of Ordo Iuris, an ultra-conservative group who are supporting the prosecution to represent the interests of the “fetus and its successors.”
In an election year, the issue of reproductive rights in Poland is a particularly urgent point of debate. In October 2020, the country’s government-controlled Constitutional Tribunal outlawed abortion in cases of fetal abnormalities. Poland has now become among the most difficult places in Europe to get a termination, but support for abortion remains high among Polish society — as many as 66% of people support abortion in the first 12 weeks, according to a recent poll.
However, recent preliminary estimates from Poland’s Central Statistics Office show that deaths in Poland continue to outnumber births, and the prospect of a shrinking population will likely be used by anti-abortion activists as an argument to further roll back reproductive rights. The leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jarosław Kaczyński, has said that Poles are “having far too few children,” shifting much of the blame on women.
In November, Kaczyński even blamed the low birth rate on young women’s alcohol consumption. “If we see a continuation of the situation where, until the age of 25, young women drink as much as men their age, then there will be no children,” he said.
Wydrzyńska’s hearing has been adjourned until March, when she faces a verdict.
IN GLOBAL NEWS
Between Poland and Florida, it’s a toss-up as to which place is more inhospitable for young women right now. Florida is certainly vying for the top spot, proposing a new regulation that makes the post-Roe climate in America feel bleaker than ever. Florida’s High School Athletic Association has floated the idea that female high school athletes should record their menstrual cycle histories and submit them to their schools. The committee claimed that collecting such information was simply good practice for monitoring girls’ physical health because period abnormalities could be a sign of “low energy availability, pregnancy, or other gynecologic or medical conditions.” In 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill barring transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams. That bill, combined with the post-Roe climate, makes the menstrual history proposal feel all the more sinister. Critics have pointed to concerns that if the questions remained mandatory, it could lead to surveillance of high school students and their ability to access reproductive health care or out trans student-athletes participating in sports. Plus, there’s the simple question of privacy — both the old-fashioned kind of privacy, which means a person’s period is their business, and the new kind of privacy, that is concern for where all that menstrual data might end up, and who can get their hands on it.
Two little stories for you on extinction. First up, a genetic technology company is trying to bring back the Dodo, some 260 years after the flightless bird went extinct. Perhaps one day, the phrase “as dead as a dodo” won’t carry quite as much weight. The project is spearheaded by Colossal Biosciences, a company described as the “headline-grabbing, venture-capital-funded juggernaut of de-extinction science” by Scientific American magazine. Colossal Biosciences has also tried to recreate the woolly mammoth and the Tasmanian tiger. Some biologists say it’s a waste of resources and more effort should go into preventing species from becoming extinct in the first place.
Meanwhile, in India, geologists and paleontologists are worried they might soon get tangled up in a nightmare of red tape which will scupper their work in uncovering the country’s rich geological history. Last month, paleontologists discovered a staggering 92 titanosaur nests, along with hundreds of eggs “the size of volleyballs.” But a draft bill aiming to protect the country’s geological sites and fossils will give the central government all the power to control who gets access to these places. Many scientists are arguing that the bill puts too much power into the hands of the Geological Survey of India, which has been accused in the past of “losing” valuable fossils that then appeared on the black market.
Kourtney Kardashian is facing a backlash from gynecologists following the launch of her gummies promising “vaginal wellness.” Kardashian claims vitamin-filled, pineapple-flavored candy, called “Lemme Purr,” can also change the taste of the vagina. “Give your vagina the sweet treat it deserves, and turn it into a sweet treat,” she says. It’s another example of toxic wellness culture, say Kardashian’s critics, while gynecologists have slammed the product, saying that women should consult doctors — not Kardashians. “Anyone who suggests that your vagina isn’t fresh or needs an improved taste is a misogynist and awful person,” wrote gynecologist and author Dr. Jen Gunter on Instagram.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- The U.K.’s leading Jewish organization, alongside a group of MPs, has called on U.K. TV channel GB news to stop peddling antisemitic conspiracy theories. The TV channel was launched in 2021 to emulate the style and content of Fox news, but with British accents, and has invited numerous anti-5G, anti-vaccine, and “Illuminati” conspiracy theorists since its launch. The Guardian reports.
- Google is helping “fake abortion clinics” target low-income women. These “crisis pregnancy centers” outnumber abortion clinics in some southern states in the U.S., and lobby women to carry pregnancies to term. Often women looking for abortions accidentally end up here — and an investigation by the Tech Transparency Project has found that Google’s search algorithm is helping to dupe them.