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Abortion Rights Protests Paralyze Poland

The nationwide demonstrations are a challenge to the ruling Law and Justice Party and the Catholic Church.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
People block traffic in the center of Warsaw during a protest against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, Warsaw, October 26, 2020,
People block traffic in the center of Warsaw during a protest against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, Warsaw, October 26, 2020,
People block traffic in the center of Warsaw during a protest against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, Warsaw, October 26, 2020, Wojtek Radwanski / AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Abortion rights protests continue in Poland, there is only a week to go in the U.S. presidential election campaign, and the latest cease-fire attempt in Nagorno-Karabakh fails.

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Abortion Rights Protests in Poland Enter Sixth Day

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Abortion rights protests continue in Poland, there is only a week to go in the U.S. presidential election campaign, and the latest cease-fire attempt in Nagorno-Karabakh fails.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Abortion Rights Protests in Poland Enter Sixth Day

Protests in Poland against the constitutional court decision to further restrict abortion rights enter their sixth day today with no end in sight.

Today’s protests follow widespread action on the streets of more than 150 Polish cities on Monday. In the capital, Warsaw, demonstrators shut down traffic through the city, flooding major intersections at rush-hour and chanting for the right-wing government to step down.

Not all right. The scale of the protests seems to indicate that Poland’s rightward shift—egged on by U.S. President Trump and his allies—is facing some headwinds. Last Tuesday, Trump’s former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell boasted of the “rising special relationship” between the two countries. But President Andrzej Duda’s extremely narrow election victory in July—with just 51.2 percent of the vote—suggests that the right’s dominance may not be set in stone.

A long time coming. The court decision was in some ways expected. As Madeline Roache argued in Foreign Policy in early 2019, “The church, anti-abortion groups, and government have transformed abortion into a deeply moral issue that has polarized the population.” Some campaigners have “displayed graphic posters of fetuses alongside images of Adolf Hitler, with text comparing abortion to genocide,” while several regional governments have effectively banned the procedure, causing many women to leave the country to seek abortions in Germany or Slovakia.

A waning Church. Such a full-throated defense of abortion rights also reflects the fading influence of the Catholic church in Poland, which itself been a target of protesters. By aligning themselves with the traditionalist values of the Law and Justice party, Conservative clerics have risked alienating a younger, more socially moderate, population. Many have voted with their feet, with church attendance among the young falling at the fastest rate in the world. As a whole, Poles are not monolithic in their approach to the institution. A 2019 poll found that 54 percent of Poles do not trust the Church, versus 33 percent who said they do.

What next? Protest organizers Women’s Strike have called for a nationwide strike to take place on Wednesday, with a march on Warsaw planned for this Friday.


What We’re Following Today

One week to go. The U.S. Presidential election campaign is now in its final week. Former Vice President Joe Biden is campaigning in Georgia while his running mate, Kamala Harris, visits Nevada. President Donald Trump will hold rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, while Vice President Mike Pence campaigns in both North and South Carolina.

Whoever wins, the practice of doling out foreign ambassadorships to wealthy donors may soon be history, as FP’s Robbie Gramer reports.

For more on Election 2020 and its international implications, read FP’s in-depth coverage here.

Nagorno-Karabakh cease-fire broken. A U.S.-brokered cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict failed to hold on Monday, with both Armenia and Azerbaijan accusing one another of shooting first. In a televised address, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev criticized the OSCE Minsk group, led by France, Russia, and the United States. “For almost 30 years, the Minsk Group co-chairs have tried to reconcile Azerbaijan with the process of freezing the conflict, but we have created a new reality,” Aliyev said. “We are fed up with these negotiations. How long can you negotiate?” The Minsk group is set to meet again with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Oct. 29.

China sanctions U.S. weapons manufacturers. China will impose sanctions on three U.S.-based weapons manufacturers after the U.S. State Department approved the sale of $1.8 billion worth of weapons and equipment to Taiwan last Wednesday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the sanctions were necessary “in order to uphold national interests.” It’s not yet clear what form the sanctions will take.

More sanctions could soon be on the way, as the State Department approved a further $2.37 billion in weapons sales to Taiwan on Monday.

Thai protesters call for Germany’s help. Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand marched on the German Embassy in Bangkok to deliver a letter asking German authorities to investigate whether King Maha Vajiralongkorn “has conducted Thai politics using his royal prerogative from German soil or not.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, speaking from Berlin, said the German government was “examining” the issue “and if there are things we feel to be unlawful, then that will have immediate consequences.”


Keep an Eye On

World’s biggest IPO to take place outside U.S. Jack Ma, China’s richest man, is set to snub U.S. markets as he launches the world’s biggest initial public offering of shares in his financial technology company Ant. Ma intends to list the company on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets, a patriotic move that also allows him avoid to avoid further scrutiny from U.S. regulators. At $34 billion, the stock offering will eclipse the previous IPO record, set by Saudi Aramco in December 2019.

Erdogan calls for French boycott. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for a boycott of French goods as backlash against French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks on Islam and his defense of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed grows. Erdogan has accused Macron of running a “hate campaign” against the religion and asked the Turkish people to join the boycott already underway in some Muslim-majority countries.

EU to back Okonjo-Iweala in WTO bid. The European Union is set to publicly endorse former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in her bid to become the new director general of the World Trade Organization. Only one other candidate remains in the race, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, who is reportedly preferred by the United States. The candidate is chosen by consensus, so either one could still be blocked if one of the WTO’s 164 member states wishes to do so. Whichever candidate prevails, it will be the first time a woman has led the organization. 


Odds and Ends

Scientists have found the most compelling evidence yet for the existence of large amounts of water on the surface of the moon. The discovery has the potential to revolutionize lunar exploration. The findings, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, came after an infrared telescope mounted on a modified Boeing 747 detected water molecules in a crater in the moon’s southern region, suggesting that the moon could potentially sustain astronaut crews or provide a rocket fuel source.


That’s it for today.

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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