‘A woman should follow her own conscience’: Understanding Catholic involvement in demonstrations against the abortion ban in Poland

Convenors: Dr Nicolette Makovicky (REES, OSGA) and Dr Agnieszka Kościańska (Leverhulme Fellow at REES, OSGA)

Speaker: Dr Agnieszka Kościańska (Leverhulme Fellow at REES, OSGA)


In October 2020, a ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal effectively ending legal abortion incited massive protests across the country. Despite the demonstrations being directed at both the government and the Catholic Church, many devout Catholics joined the protests against Church opposition to family planning being enacted through state-imposed prohibition.

Drawing on ongoing archival and ethnographic research, in this presentation I address a number of issues relating to Catholicism and abortion: how it is possible that so many Catholics decided to take part in pro-choice marches openly opposing official Catholic teaching on birth control? What were their motivations? And – finally – what are the genealogies of the concepts underpinning these motivations?

agnieszka koscianska

Agnieszka Kościańska is Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw. In the past, she was a visiting fellow at Harvard University (2010-2011, Marie Curie fellowship), the New School for Social Research (2006, Kosciuszko Foundation grant), the University of Copenhagen (2005, Danish Governmental scholarship), Edinburgh College of Art (2017, European Visiting Research Fellowship by the Caledonian Research Foundation and the Royal Society of Edinburgh) and the Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena (2016, 2017-2018).

She is the author and (co)editor of several volumes on gender and sexuality, including To See a Moose: The History of Polish Sex Education (forthcoming with Berghahn Books 2021, Polish version 2017, Wydawnictwo Czarne) and Gender, Pleasure, and Violence: The Construction of Expert Knowledge of Sexuality in Poland (Indiana University Press 2021, Polish version 2014, University of Warsaw Press).

All welcome, but we do ask that non-REES students please register their interest by emailing the REES office.