Activists held socially distanced protests against the proposals earlier this year

Poland’s constitutional court is due to rule on plans to introduce an almost total ban on abortion.

Poland’s laws are already among the strictest in Europe, with abortion only allowed in cases of rape or incest, if the mother’s life is at risk, or if the foetus is seriously compromised.

But the new legislation would ban terminations in cases of foetal defects.

Human rights groups have urged politicians to reject the plans.

Almost all abortions carried out in Poland are carried out in cases where the foetus has severe disabilities – the exact circumstances the court is due to decide on.

The bill was first put forward in 2016 by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, but the government was forced to withdraw the proposals following mass street protests.

Earlier this year, however, the party backed a new abortion bill, which emerged out of an online petition. Most of the judges on the court are also from the Law and Justice party.

Polish sexual and reproductive health and rights activist Antonina Lewandowska told the BBC that opponents of the ban had presented a defence based on UN rules outlawing torture.

“It’s inhuman, it’s despicable honestly to make anyone carry a pregnancy to term, especially if the foetus is malformed, and 98% of legal abortions carried out in Poland are due to foetal malformations,” she said.

Three international rights groups – Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Human Rights Watch – have said they will send independent monitors to the court ahead of the decision.

“The Constitutional Tribunal’s upcoming proceedings take place in the context of repeated government attacks on women’s rights and efforts to roll back reproductive rights, as well as legal and policy changes that have undermined the independence of the judiciary and rule of law in Poland,” they said in a joint statement.