The “One of Us” initiative, aiming to defend the unborn in Europe, is gaining ground in Poland.
Here is an interview with Jakub Baltroszewicz, the coordinator of the Polish National Committee of the “One of Us” campaign. He is also a member of the Citizens Committee (one of seven citizens of the EU who actually presented the legal proposition to the European Commission) and a member of the Executive Committee of the initiative.
Q: Tell us about yourself:
Baltroszewicz: I graduated from the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, Poland (currently it’s the Pontifical University of John Paul II) and held a STL (Sacred Theology Licentiate) in Moral Theology. Besides that when I was invited by Carlo Casini to get involved in the initiative, I was an editor-in-chief of the anthropological magazine called IMAGO where we try to promote the Christian view of the Human Person. Our publisher was the Pro Humana Vita Foundation famously founded by Professor Wanda Poltawska. I had a privilege to work with her, even interview her — this is a lesson that stays with you forever.
Q: What is the pro life situation in Poland?
Baltroszewicz: Polish society is in its majority pro-life. Statistics say (from January 2012) that 80% of Poles say, when asked, that the life on the unborn child should be protected. Every year in every major city in Poland “marches for life” are organized and tens of thousands showed up to give testimony of their support of life. Even though some pro-choice movements are loudly demanding changing Polish law and they call it extremely strict or even the most strict in all Europe, we also are not very happy with this law but for fundamentally different reasons. It’s hard to accept that there are some exceptions in Polish law which allow the legal killing of a human person. That is why some pro-life movements in Poland are pushing for the new legal solution that will ban killing when there is question about the health of the fetus. Last year more then 600,000 people supported this proposition, unfortunately we were voted out in the Polish Parliament. This year there are plans to start gathering signatures again so our voice would be heard louder and stronger than even before.
Q: How is the legal situation for the unborn child in Poland? How is the abortion situation in your country?
Baltroszewicz: Since 1993 abortion is banned in Poland and illegal abortion is punishable by law. There are exemptions however to this rule: (1.) When the woman’s life or health is endangered by the continuation of pregnancy, (2.) When the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, or (3.) When the fetus is seriously malformed. These exemptions are responsible for killing legally a couple hundred of children every year. There are no precise data on illegal abortion though, which is also a major problem that the State cannot control well enough.
Q: You are the national coordinator for “one of us” in your country: exactly what do you do?
Baltroszewicz: I was fortunate enough to be able to gather some of the most prominent people of the pro-life movements in Poland. I must say it is a great honor and privilege to work with them. Some of them have fought this war for unborn children even longer that I’ve lived. It’s a great adventure and an amazing learning experience when I can interact with them — they are using their experience, connections and organizations to help the initiative. I am the Coordinator which means that I try to coordinate all of this activities in Poland that will help succeed the initiative succeed, mainly in promoting it — we will not get support if the people do not hear about us. So my work includes a lot of traveling around Poland, a lot of media appearances and — if I may add — a lot of prayer. I work with many local pro-life leaders and try to reach more of them in order to assure that whoever wants to support the initiative both online or on paper will get the chance.
Q: You also have a National Committee for “One of Us.” Who are the members? What are your strategies and your aims with this campaign?
Baltroszewicz: As I mentioned before I work with some brilliant and amazing people. Polish Federation of the Pro-Life Movements is heavily involved in promoting the initiative — two major names there are Dr. Wosicki and Dr. Zieba. Mr Dzierzawski from the PRO – Right to Life Foundation that was responsible for a huge pro-life success in Poland (when they gathered 600,000 signatures) is a great leader who I really can count on. One of the biggest medical authorities in Poland when it comes to maternal health — Prof. Bogdan Chazan was one of the first person who accepted my invitation. Famous for his uncompromising approach to the teaching of the Catholic Church, Polish Catholic journalist Tomasz Terlikowski is also with us. But in the Comittee we have also younger, maybe less experienced people, but people who are absolutely and definitely devoted to the case: our press spokesman Malgorzata Masiorska who is also an instructor for the Creighton Natural Family Planning Model (Naprotechnology), young mother Kaja Godek who is an amazing witness of a mother who did not agree to kill her baby with Down Syndrome, Michal Baran heavily involved in Catholic Youth Association or Piotr Gladysz who’s in charge of a project that spread around Poland – October Baby movie projection – that gathers thousands. Last but not least we have two amazing lawyers Joanna Potocka and Olgierd Pankiewicz who are using all of their connections to help the initiative.
Q: You are also a member of the executive committee of “one of us”: Do you think that one of us can help the diffusion of a pro-life culture in Poland and in the EU?
Baltroszewicz: I am very happy that we are working together. I think this is the very first time in the history of the EU that pro-life movements from all over Europe work to achieve one common goal. It is a good lesson for Poland too. We must understand that we are not alone in Europe and we cannot build another Berlin wall around us – this time – to keep us safe from the damaging philosophies and lies about the Human Person that come from all around. If we will not fight together, we will lose. Poland has to share its pro-life strength with other countries, this is our duty.
Q: Poland Is the country with the higher number of signatures in the EU. What do you think about it? What do you think could be the role of Poland in the EU in the pro-life matter?
Baltroszewicz: I’m very proud that Poland is still in the first place when it comes to signature-gathering even though I started organizing the initiative in January and we really do not have a structure, detailed preparation or even money. But we have people who share the same values and want to help. I know that my European partners count on us, as the situation in other countries may be tough and less friendly for the legal proposition that we want to introduce. It may sound a bit exaggerated but I think that our role is also to give hope to these societies who lost their way and are stuck in sort of cultural emptiness. There is a way back if we will work together. The truth about the Human Person will prevail.
Q: Who are the promoters and the supporters of the Initiative in your’s country?
Baltroszewicz: There is of course the Catholic Church. After official support of the Holy See, Polish bishops did not have any doubts about encouraging the lay people to get involved in the initiative. And we really like that the Church points out that the lay people should be the protagonists of this initiative – if we ant to build a civil society we should be the ones who work hard to do that. Major Catholic media are also involved in promoting the initiative in our country. I must say there is no pro-life movement in Poland who is skeptical or against the initiative. But more than that. People and organizations from all over my country call us every day to express their support and offer help. It’s very encouraging when one realizes that so many people work for the initiative to succeed.
Q: When and how will you launch officially one of us?
Baltroszewicz: We started on Feb 26, by organizing press conferences in Warsaw that drew satisfying attention not only from the Catholic but also from so-called mainstream media. From the day we have launched, we started to collect signatures also on paper and hoping that we will do at least as good as we are doing online.
Q: Why sign “one of us”?
Baltroszewicz: Protect the innocent, protect those who cannot protect themselves. Say no to spending your money basically illegally by EU to fund private institutions that use it to kill unborn human beings. We have the power to change the law. Our duty is to do it.
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For more information:
“One of Us” campaign: http://www.oneofus.eu