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Defying both the pope and street protesters, Parliament's lower chamber passed a bill today liberalizing Poland's strict abortion laws.

Earlier this month, the upper chamber, the Senate, vetoed the measure allowing women to have abortions if they are in financial need. But the lower chamber overrode that veto by a 228-119 vote.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski says he will sign the measure into law.

Some 40,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Parliament building Wednesday and marched through downtown Warsaw.

Current law, which was passed three years ago, allows abortions only when the woman's health is at risk, if the fetus is irreparably damaged or if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Doctors who break the law face up to two years in prison.

The law passed today will allow the termination of pregnancies up until the 12th week in cases where women are in financial need or if they are deemed emotionally or socially unprepared to have a child.

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