Thousands of women took to Poland's streets on Monday (3 October) as part of a nationwide strike in protest against a proposal for a total ban on abortion.

Abortion ban protest
A woman gestures as people gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
A woman whistles and holds placard with words "In the name of mother and daughter" as people gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
Women shout slogans as they gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters

Dubbed as 'Black Monday', women across the country wore black as a sign of mourning for the feared loss of their reproductive rights, and for the deaths that they feel some women would face, if the ban were put in place. Men also joined women on the streets of Warsaw, Gdansk and elsewhere across the largely Catholic nation.

Abortion ban protest
A woman shouts slogans as people gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
A woman looks on as people gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
People gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the Palace of Culture in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters

Abortion is banned in Poland under the existing law which has been in force since 1993. The only exceptions are in cases where the woman's life is in danger, the foetus is irreparably damaged or the pregnancy results from rape or incest. The new proposal, now being examined by a parliamentary commission, would make all abortions illegal, even in cases of rape or when the woman's life is at risk, with prison terms of up to five years for women seeking abortion and doctors who perform them.

Abortion ban protest
Women shout slogans as they gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
A woman holds a placard in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the Palace of Culture in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
A woman blows a horn as she takes part in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters

The proposed law was introduced by the group Ordo Iuris, who have gathered 450,000 signatures, and is supported by the church. It would forbid any termination, tightening Poland's already restrictive rules. Many members of the conservative ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), support the proposal, but it's not clear if there are enough to push it through. It is unclear whether the Polish government will back the draft law, but the possibility of new restrictions has stirred an intense debate.

Abortion ban protest
People gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
Women gesture as people gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration to protest against plans for a total ban on abortion in front of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) headquarters in WarsawKacper Pempel/ Reuters

Standing outside the PiS headquarters in Warsaw, people were seen holding signs and chanting slogans such as "We want doctors, not missionaries!" and "My body, My choice." Others held coat hangers - a symbol of dangerous and illegal abortions which could become more common if the ban were to happen. Protests were also held outside Kiev's Polish embassy and the European institutions in Brussels.

Abortion ban protest
Ukrainian activist holds placard schematically depicting female ovaries during a rally held in front of the Polish embassy in support to Polish women to protest against a proposed law that will ban abortion in KievSergei Supinsky/ AFP
Abortion ban protest
Women hold a rally in front of the Polish embassy in support to Polish women and to protest against a proposed law that will ban abortion in KievSergei Supinsky/ AFP
Abortion ban protest
A Ukrainian activist shouts slogans as he holds his baby and a placard reading 'I am for the right of women to decide for themselves' during a rally at the Polish embassy in KievSergei Supinsky/ AFP

In downtown Warsaw Agnieszka Krysztopolska sat in a Starbuck's shop with several friends who were all boycotting work. "I have two children and it's not like I am some kind of hardline feminist but I do not agree with somebody depriving me of the right to my own health or that of my children. I think this bill is just dangerous," she told the Associated Press.

Abortion ban protest
A demonstrator displays a hanger to protest against a proposed parliament bill to completely ban abortion in Poland, in front of EU institutions in BrusselsFrancois Lenoir/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
A demonstrator holds a sign to protest against a proposed parliament bill to completely ban abortion in Poland, in front of EU institutions in BrusselsFrancois Lenoir/ Reuters
Abortion ban protest
A demonstrator holds her dog as she wears a shirt to protest against a proposed parliament bill to completely ban abortion in Poland, in front of the Polish embassy to the EU in BrusselsFrancois Lenoir/ Reuters

The day of action also included a call for housewives to refuse to do housework, with organisers taking inspiration from the 1975 women's strike in Iceland, where 90% of women refused to work, clean or look after their children, to voice anger at discrimination in the workplace. Iceland saw a change of law the following year, which guaranteed equal rights for men and women.

Abortion ban protest
A demonstrator wears a shirt to protest against a proposed parliament bill to completely ban abortion in Poland, in front of European institutions in BrusselsFrancois Lenoir/ Reuters