Thursday, October 20, 2016

Is Poland’s anti-abortion protest linked to a growing unrest against the ruling party?

Bini Philips
(I do not plan to take the second module yet)

SNA work on social movements I referred to:


Many said we might see in Poland this year what we saw in Iceland in 1975 and on October 3, 2016 we did. Black Monday brought Warsaw to a standstill. 200,000 women dressed in black stormed the streets to protest the new anti-abortion law. At present, abortion is legal in Poland only if it poses a threat to the life and health of the mother, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape, or if the fetus is diagnosed unhealthy (conditions like Down syndrome). The new law would have protected the life of the unborn child at the cost of the mother’s. This lead to a national uprising and the strength the protest garnered eventually lead the governing party to retract from the proposed law.

Social movements have uprooted governments, reopened court cases, freed nations, ended racist atrocities, opened dialogues, changed laws etc. History is witness to these group actions that have emerged from the bottom and lead to tangible solutions. Is Poland at the brink of a change too?

In October 2015, the Law and Justice Party (Pis) came to power in Poland and has been since criticized for its conservative agenda and anti-democratic actions. The proposed anti-abortion law has also been criticized heavily as another one of PiS’s regressive moves. Is the growing unrest in Poland rising to the surface through this protest? Could this protest mark a turning point in Polish Politics?

Research Questions

How were such massive numbers mobilized for the protest? Did social media networks lead to real world connections or were social media channels employed to disseminate the message of a centralized feminist/left wing voice against this law? What are the political motivations of the groups that have emerged as key actors in this protest, if any?


1.     Identify the political parties and groups that organized the protest, including online forums/pages, examples:
·       Razem party
·       Committee for the Defense of Democracy
·       Gals for Gals (Facebook page)
·       Save the women (Facebook Page)
·       Czarny Protest (Facebook page)

2.       Create data on the networks these groups used to mobilize women, one example given below:
·       Marta Lombart, Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD)-Key organizer and her network
·       Network of 20 coordinators who each contacted 1000 women for the protest
·       250 Committee for the Defense of Democracy coordinators
·       20 social media tech experts team that Lombart put together
But once I get this data, to find connections between them will require a survey that identifies all key players and find levels of connections between them and how they are connected example- work, school, political leanings etc.

3.       Examine if closely knit clusters emerge

4.       Map the interconnections between groups, including oppositions parties- Platforma Obywatelska,  Nowoczesna, Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe- and independent groups
5.       Attributes that will be looked at- age (because Polish youth played a crucial role in the protest and  are potential recruits for the opposition), gender and location.

6.       The most important network measure will be the maximum indegree and eigenvector score- to  identify strong emerging leadership

If strong connections emerge between the political parties in the opposition and the key actors in the protest, then the anti-abortion protest could be the beginning of a social movement anchored in women’s rights taking shape. If moderate connections emerge, then it is a collective action against a regressive abortion law. 

1 comment:

Christopher Tunnard said...

Great subject. Perhaps the network data won't be as difficult to collect as you think. If Twitter was used (and it is reasonably popular in Poland,) then you could look at hashtags around the major speeches or protest demonstrations. You can buy historic tweets for past events and use a program like NodeXL to cover events going forward. Otherwise, you can indeed construct nets out of the two-mode attribute data, but that would be a difficult process--but not impossible. Before you do, you need to think through your network analysis approach a bit more.

If you're every interested in pursuing this, let me know.