WARSAW.ABO

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- President Lech Walesa promised Saturday 
to veto legislation relaxing Poland's strict anti-abortion law. 
If parliament overturns the veto, he said he might resign for a 
day to avoid signing the bill into law. The bill cleared 
parliament's upper chamber in a narrow vote Thursday and was 
sent to Walesa Saturday. It would allow women to terminate 
pregnancies in cases of difficult financial or personal 
circumstances. It remains uncertain whether abortion-rights 
supporters could gather the two-thirds majority needed to 
override Walesa's veto. Only one of the two leftist parties in 
the governing coalition unanimously supports the bill, while 
other parties are divided over the issue.

The current law, approved early last year after a long, 
vehement campaign by the Roman Catholic Church, allows 
abortions only when the pregnancy endangers the mother's life 
or health, results from a criminal act, or when the fetus is 
irreparably damaged.

Doctors who perform abortions in other cases face up to two 
years in prison.

The bill replaced a Communist-era law, under which abortions 
were easily accessible. The parliament that emerged from last 
September's elections had been expected to ease the new 
restrictions. Walesa, however, has equated abortion with 
"murder" and insisted he would never approve any bill that 
would make it easier for women to get abortions.

"I will never sign the bill," Walesa, a devout Catholic, told 
the PAP domestic news agency on Saturday. "One king abdicated 
for a day and maybe I will do the same," Walesa said, referring 
to Belgian King Baudouin I, who in 1990 resigned for one day to 
avoid signing an abortion bill. The president's press office 
said Walesa was out of Warsaw on Saturday and probably will act 
on the bill Monday. Until 1992, some 500,000 abortions were 
reported each year, while last year, the official number was 
770. However, there are reports of a widespread abortion 
underground, and wealthier women reportedly travel abroad for 
the procedure.


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