WARSAW, Poland -- People across Poland stayed off their jobs and huge crowds poured onto the streets for a seventh-straight day of protests Wednesday over a top court ruling that bans abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities.
Tens of thousands of people, gathering despite pandemic restrictions, vented their views against the abortion ruling and more what they perceive as restrictions on their freedoms under the right-wing ruling party, Law and Justice.
With the military ordered to monitor the crowds, protesters demanded the Polish government's resignation.
Protests against last week's court ruling also spread to other countries. People gathered at Poland's embassies in Stockholm, Lisbon and Rome in solidarity.
Poland, a mainly Catholic country, already had one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws. The ruling that declared it unconstitutional to terminate pregnancies for congenital defects amounts to a near-total ban.
In Warsaw on Wednesday, demonstrators marched from the office of Ordo Iuris, a conservative group that has been lobbying for years for a full abortion ban, to the parliament building, which was surrounded by police officers in riot gear. Large crowds also filled the streets in other major cities, including Krakow, Wroclaw, Szczecin and Lodz.
In parliament, Poland's most powerful politician, ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, lashed out at opposition lawmakers, accusing them from the podium of inciting people to protest during the pandemic.
"You are destroying Poland," Kaczynski told them. "You are exposing a lot of people to death, you are criminals."
The nationwide strike and protests have been largely organized by Women's Strike, a women's-rights initiative. The protests take place as a standoff deepens between angry demonstrators and Poland's conservative government, which pushed for last week's court ruling and has vowed not to back down.
Opinion polls show a majority of Poles oppose the constitutional court's ruling and the protesters have even found support from unexpected groups, including farmers and miners.
Another opinion poll on Wednesday showed falling support for the Law and Justice party.
"I am so furious! They have no right to decide about my life, about my personal decisions, about my future," Julka Wojciechowska, 19, a student protesting in Warsaw, said. "They don't understand young people. They don't understand the world now, but they are trying to regulate our lives. We will never allow that."
Rage over the ruling, which would deny legal abortions to women even in cases of fatal birth defects, has been directed at the Roman Catholic Church and ruling party leader, Kaczynski.
Kaczynski has said in the past that pregnancies involving even fetuses that are badly damaged and have no chance of survival outside the womb should "still end up in a birth, so that the child can be baptized, buried, have a name."
On Sunday, women entered Polish churches on Sunday to disrupt Masses, confronted priests with obscenities and spray-painted church buildings.
Kaczynski accused the rioters of seeking "to destroy Poland" late Tuesday and called on his party's supporters to defend churches "at any cost."
On Wednesday, people heeded that call, gathering outside churches and singing religious songs.
Information for this article was contributed by Monika Scislowska of The Associated Press.