Polish police detain pro-choice protesters as they try to enter a church, Sunday, October 25, in Warsaw, Poland.
Thousands of activists disrupted church services across Poland on Sunday chanting during mass and hanging abortion posters on church bulletin boards to protest a court ruling that amounts to a near-total ban on abortion.
In the first large-scale demonstrations directly targeting churches in the predominately Catholic country, crowds carried posters depicting a crucified pregnant woman and handed out protest cards to priests.
Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the European Union and many women travel abroad to terminate their pregnancies.
But Poland's constitutional court last week ruled in favor of further restrictions, stating that an existing law allowing the abortion of damaged fetuses was "incompatible" with the constitution.
The verdict is in line with the position of Poland's powerful Catholic Church and the governing nationalist Law and Justice(PiS)party.
It has ignited anger against the ruling party, which is already under pressure over its handling of the pandemic and reforms that critics say undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Opponents of the ruling say it puts women's lives at risk by forcing them to carry unviable pregnancies but supporters insist it will stop the abortion of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
There are already fewer than 2,000 legal abortions per year in Poland and the vast majority of those are carried out due to damaged fetuses.
But women's groups estimate that up to 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.