A near-total ban on abortion came into effect in Poland on Wednesday, bringing thousands who protested against the original ruling back on the streets, The New York Times reported.

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal had handed down the ruling in October, but its imposition had to be stayed because of the widespread outrage. However, the government on Wednesday abruptly announced the publication of the ruling in its journal.

The tribunal had declared that terminating pregnancies because of severe foetal abnormalities was unconstitutional, according to The Guardian. With the imposition of the new ruling, abortions will be allowed only in cases of incest and rape or when there is a risk to the mother’s life.

Women’s Strike, the organisation leading protests against the ruling, called for a demonstration in capital city Warsaw, AFP reported. Protests were also held in several other cities. “Express your anger today as you see fit,” protest organiser Marta Lempart said. She also referred to the ruling as a “crime”.

A demonstrator holds a flare as she take part in a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on January 27. Wojtek Radwanski/AFP

Klementyna Suchanow, another organiser, said: “When we speak of hell for women, we can also speak of hell for the government. We are going to make this hell for you.”

Opposition leaders in Poland also criticised the ruling. “You have not yet won this war against women and you will not win,” Left party leader Wanda Nowicka said, according to AFP.

Borys Budka, the leader of Poland’s biggest opposition party Civic Platform, said no law-abiding government should respect the ruling, Reuters reported.

Poland, a predominantly Catholic country, has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. The small number of abortions allowed in the country are due to foetal defects.