LETTER FROM WARSAW
LAST week the Polish Sejm (Lower House) appointed Hanna Suchocka as Poland's first woman Prime Minister. The next day parliament approved the new cabinet.
"This will he the best of the four governments we have had so far," said President Lech Walesa a few minutes after Suchocka's appointment.
The background of the new Prime Minister is certainly encouraging. She has no previous record of political manoeuvring or strong affiliation to a particular party, although she belongs to the Democratic Union Parliamentary Club. On the other hand, she has been involved in the government all along and has a reputation for hard work and dedication, which, added to her excellent professional qualifications. seems to make her an ideal choice, Hanna Suchocka ha assembled her cabinet in record time and it includes many ministers who have already served in previous governments and so have proven ability. Hers has been described as a "strange coalition" containing as it does parties who had earlier been opposed to each other.
The Church-orientated Christian National Union is well represented in the new cabinet. but the Centrum alliance, which led the former coalition government, had not joined Ms Suchocka.
In her maiden speech the new Premier emphasised the need to work for the common good of the country and to get away from party orientated politics.
THIS week debates are scheduled in the Polish Sejm (Lower House) on the controversial subject of abortion legislation.
That some legislation is needed to curb the unacceptable numbers of abortion in the country is not under dispute. However, many question the call for a total ban hacked up with punitive legislation as being the most effective way of achieving this.
Is this punitive legislation against mothers and doctors meant to protect the public, to punish, or to deter?
Women who have abortions are more victims of their circumstances or mistakes than a menace to the public and doctors cannot compel people to terminate their pregnancies.
If the penalties prison sentences are meant as a punishment, one has only to consider Our Lord's words to the adulterous woman he saved from stoning to understand what the Church's attitude should be towards these unfortunate women. And the recently implemented doctors' Code of Ethics states that doctors performing abortions, outside the provisions laid down, may forfeit their right to practise.
This leaves us with the deterrent. Even the death penalty never prevented the occurrence of murders and the prospect of prison sentences does not deter thieves. These penalties have to be regarded as the just punishments for crimesnot as deterrent particularly.
How then, will punitive legislation lower the incidence of abortion something which up till recently had not been regarded as a crime, but only as an extreme method of birth control?
Many very intelligent and very devout Catholics in Poland feel that punitive legislation is not the way that abortion is going to be stopped: it will merely force it into the "back streets."
The Church's strong and obvious pressure in this debate has given rise to strong anti-clerical feeling among the general masses and strong misgivings among many of the sincere.
What prevented the Church from speaking out against abortion to its congregations over the last 30 years? Discretion. The Polish Church tended to be nonconfrontational in these difficult years, preferring to keep a low profile in order to survive. And so people became anaesthetised to the horror of abortion.
Now the Church in Poland feels able to speak out against the evil of abortion but is also demanding state legislation to back it up.