Monuments to Unborn Children

16 December 2021 - one response

Watching the increasingly restrictive abortion legislation that other US states besides Texas and Mississippi, or Poland in Europe, are now looking to enact, one wonders if or when this conservative turn will be reflected in the society which they  live in. What are the political steps and social developments that have led to this state of affairs? And when can we expect a tipping point followed by the enactment of conservative gender policies in countries where they have not yet been introduced?


[Monuments to Unborn Children in Bratislava: 1) 2019, Monastery of the Merciful Brothers, SNP Square, 2) 2018, Capuchin Monastery, Zochova str., Photo: Marianna Placáková]

If you visit Bratislava today, it is highly likely that during your walk through the historic centre you will accidentally come across one of the three Monuments to Unborn Children. Two of them were only created recently. They are located on the grounds of the Catholic Church in prominent places where crowds of people pass by daily. Therefore, they have the potential to grab attention and “may make many people rethink their attitudes toward the unborn,” as one Catholic non-profit’s website puts it.

One monument was unveiled during the 2019 National March for Life, which is regularly attended by tens of thousands of people in Slovakia. Since then, it has served as a symbolic meeting place for various occasions celebrating “children’s rights”. And there are many indeed. In addition to the “traditional celebration of International Children’s Days” are political campaigns by conservative NGOs, such as the monthly Candle for Unborn event held each fall by the Forum for Life.

“In memory of more than 1.4 million unborn children in Slovakia (1957–2017)” is inscribed on one of the monuments, referring to the year 1957, when free access to abortion was enacted in socialist Czechoslovakia. This aggressive pro-life rhetoric, which also works alongside politics of memory related to the interpretation of the past, and the “performed visibility” of monuments in public space, are symptoms of the growing influence of the already strong Catholic Church and the various political campaigns promoting conservative gender ideas in Slovak society.

[František Guldan, Monument to Unborn (first built in Slovakia), 1997, Bezručova str., Bratislava, Photo: Marianna Placáková]

Unlike in Slovakia, the abortion debate in the Czech Republic is not so politicized and “monuments to unborn” are not (yet) part of the urban public space. However, they can be found in cemeteries, where they are built by parishes and NGOs with the help of mostly local artists, and even then they become the subject of political struggles.

Two months ago, the Czech Republic held parliamentary elections, which were reported by foreign media as a triumph for liberal democracy over the populism symbolized by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Understanding this electoral result in the complete opposite way, this “victory” marked the first complete absence of a left-wing party in Czech government since 1989. Moreover, the winning coalition can be seen as more conservative than liberal with its pro-life and homophobic Christian Democrat wing. With Slovakia in mind, where several anti-abortion bills have recently been introduced and failed to pass parliament, we might soon see a similar legislative proposal in the Czech Republic, along with an “attractive” monument in the centre of Prague.


By: Marianna Placáková

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  1. Agata Jakubowska

    From Poland


    Central Cemetery in Szczecin
    Memorial to the Memory of Unborn Children
    Author: Wilhelmina Nestorowicz
    Year of creation: 1994
    Inscription says: “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without a future”

    In 1993 a new law was introduced – The Family Planning, Human Embryo Protection and Conditions of Permissibility of Abortion. Act of 7 January 1993. Under this law, abortion was allowed only when there is justifiable suspicion that the pregnancy constitutes a threat to the life or a serious threat to the health of the mother, that the fetus is irreversibly damaged, or that the pregnancy resulted from an illegal act.
    In October 2020 Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal found that abortion in the case of severe fetal defects is inconsistent with the Polish Constitution.

    World’s Abortion Laws Map can be found here

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