WARSAW, Poland (TBEN) – Poland’s ruling party leader has sparked anger in the country and an explosion of jokes by claiming the country’s low birth rate is partly caused by overconsumption of alcohol by young women.
Opposition politicians and many other critics accused Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a 73-year-old lifelong bachelor, of having no contact. They also argue that Kaczynski, the most powerful politician in Poland since 2015, is partly responsible for the low birth rate in the Central European nation of 38 million people.
In particular, critics point to restrictions on abortion that have discouraged some women from getting pregnant. Others note how difficult it is for young people to raise a family due to rising costs in a country where inflation is now close to 18%.
Kaczynski, leader of the populist ruling Law and Justice party, made his remark over the weekend as he travels the country to rally support for his party ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
Kaczynski explained to his audience on Saturday that he was not in favor of “very early motherhood” because a woman must first mature to become a mother. But, he continued, if women abuse alcohol up to age 25, “that’s not a good prognosis in these cases.”
The comment sparked some predictable jokes along the lines of that alcohol was actually helpful for conception, as well as a lot of serious criticism.
When a government representative argued on a TV talk show that alcohol’s influence on fertility is actually a legitimate point of discussion, an opposition lawmaker Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz shot back: “This isn’t a debate, it’s an insult to Polish women.”
The traditionally Roman Catholic country already had one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws before 2020, with abortions allowed in very few cases, before 2020. Then a new ruling ruled that women should not be allowed to terminate pregnancies for a long time in cases where the fetus is affected. has serious abnormalities and is not viable after birth.
That led to the largest protests in Poland in decades. Since then, there have been cases of pregnant women dying, although a risk to the woman’s life is a legal ground for abortion under current law. Women’s rights advocates say such cases arise because doctors are afraid to terminate pregnancies even if the woman’s life is in danger, for fear of legal consequences for themselves.
Another opposition lawmaker, Aleksandra Gajewska, questioned whether Kaczynski was speaking out of some political calculation or not. “Is Jaroslaw Kaczynski a ruthless, vicious cynic, or is he mentally ill?” she said.
Kaczynski defended himself, saying that “an honest politician, if he knows such a thing, should talk about it.”