Thousands of Polish women hit the streets to protest against new abortion laws

Thousands of women are protesting against Poland’s new abortion laws in cities across the country.

The ruling on Thursday was delivered by the Polish constitutional court. It said legislation allowing for the abortion of malformed foetuses was “incompatible” with the constitution.

The court banned almost all abortions – with exceptions only for cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s health is at risk.

It came after a legal challenge was launched by MPs from the governing nationalist PiS last year.

A majority of the court’s judges were nominated by the same party.

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, and the Polish presidency both hailed the ruling.

Abortions carried out when the foetus is malformed, which accounted for 98% of legal terminations last year, have now been outlawed.

Poland already had some of the EU’s strictest abortion laws.

Fewer than 2,000 legal terminations are carried out each year. But women’s groups estimate that up to 200,000 abortions are either performed illegally, or abroad.

Protests were held in Poznan, Warsaw, Wroclaw and Krakow, among other cities, on Friday.

Police said officers used pepper spray and physical force when some protesters threw stones and tried to push through the cordon around the Warsaw home of Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Protesters chanted “This is war” and “You have blood on your hands”.