Polish lawmakers voted Thursday to approve over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill for those aged 15 and older, in a step to liberalize Poland’s strict reproductive law inherited from the previous nationalist conservative government.

The vote in the lower house was the first step in the new pro-European Union government’s plans to relax the anti-abortion and contraceptive law, which is among the strictest in Europe.

ICONIC MESSAGE FROM THE FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT TO LEGISLATORS ON UKRAINE: ‘IF WE DON’T ACT NOW, WE WILL LOSE’

Lawmakers voted 224 to 196 in the Sejm, with one abstention, to liberalize access to the hormonal contraceptive called ellaOne.

polish flag

A Polish flag flies near the spire of the Palace of Culture and Sciences, Warsaw, Poland, on February 12, 2022. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The morning-after pill, which prevents pregnancy, is currently only available with a prescription. The previous conservative government, backed by President Andrzej Duda, tightened reproductive laws, sparking major street protests.

Abortion in Poland, a predominantly Catholic country, is legal only when the pregnancy threatens the health or life of the woman, or is the result of rape. The strict law has had a chilling effect on Polish doctors and has led to several deaths of women with problematic pregnancies.

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The new contraception rules still need approval from the Senate, which is expected to approve them, and from Duda.

By Sam