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Poland's leader wants churches defended, condemns protests

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Women's rights activists with posters of the Women's Strike action protest against recent tightening of Poland's restrictive abortion law in front of the parliament building as inside, guards had to be used to shield right-wing ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski from angry opposition lawmakers, in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Massive nationwide protests have been held ever since a top court ruled Thursday that abortions due to fetal congenital defects are unconstitutional. Slogan reads 'Womens Strike'. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – Poland’s powerful ruling party leader urged his supporters Tuesday to defend the predominantly Catholic nation's churches, potentially setting the stage for clashes with demonstrators angry at a court ruling that severely restricts abortions.

The call Tuesday by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a conservative, drew strong condemnation from the main opposition head who accused him of deepening the nation's divide, inciting hatred and civil war. Poland's archbishop appealed for calm and respect for churches.

The country’s top court on Thursday ruled that abortions due to fetal congenital defects are unconstitutional, further tightening one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws and triggering protests.

The ensuing massive demonstrations — in violation of pandemic restrictions — entered their sixth day Tuesday and have included angry gatherings and obscene chants before churches and even disruptions of Masses.

In a Facebook video message Kaczynski insisted that the ruling was in line with the constitution and said the protests were marked by anti-church “nihilism.”

“We must defend Polish churches, we must defend them at every price," Kaczynski said, in an appeal to members and supporters of his ruling Law and Justice party.

Opposition Civic Coalition leader Borys Budka reacted by saying that words calling for “hatred, inciting civil war and using party forces to attack citizens are a crime.”

He warned that the opposition could seek to bring Kaczynski before a special court for politicians.