One was that of Beata, a 36-year-old single mother who did not want to disclose her full name for fear of stigma in her deeply Catholic community.

When she became pregnant with her second child, she said the father of the child and her family shunned her. No bank would lend her money because she had no job. No one wanted to hire her because she was pregnant. And she was refused unemployment benefits on the grounds that she was “not employable.”

“The state completely abandons single mothers,” she said.

Then one day, as she was sitting on the floor in her tiny unfurnished apartment, Father Kancelarczyk, who was alerted by a friend, called, encouraged her to keep the baby and offered help.

“One day I had nothing,” Beata said. “The next day he shows up with all these things: furniture, clothes, diapers. I could even choose the color of my stroller.”

Nine years later, Beata works as an accountant and the son she chose to have, Michal, thrives at school.

For many women, Father Kancelarczyk has turned out to be the only safety net — though his charity comes with a brand of Christian fervor that polarizes, a division on stark display in Szczecin.

Father Kancelarczyk’s gothic red brick church towers directly opposite a liberal arts center whose windows are adorned with a row of black lightning bolts — the symbol of Poland’s abortion rights movement — and a poster proclaiming, “My body, my choice.”

Every year, Father Kancelarczyk organizes Poland’s biggest anti-abortion march with thousands departing from his church and facing off with counterprotesters across the street. Before a local gay pride parade, he once called on his congregants to “disinfect the streets.”

He gets hate mail nearly every day, he says, calling it “Satan’s work.”

Ms. Kacpura, the advocate who opposes the government ban, says that the lack of state support especially for single mothers has opened up space for people like Father Kancelarczyk to “indoctrinate” women who find themselves in financial and emotional distress.

Under Communism, child care was free and most Polish workplaces had on-site facilities to encourage mothers to join the work force. But that system collapsed after 1989, while an emboldened Roman Catholic Church put its shoulder behind the 1993 abortion ban as it also rekindled a vision of women as mothers and caregivers at home.

The nationalist and conservative Law and Justice Party, which was elected in 2015 on a pro-family platform, saw opportunity and passed one of Europe’s most generous child benefits programs. It was a revolution in Poland’s family policy.

But it still lacks child care, a precondition for mothers to go to work, as well as special support for the parents of disabled children. Over the past decade, groups of parents of disabled children twice occupied the Polish Parliament to protest the lack of state support, in 2014 and 2018.

When someone contacts Father Kancelarczyk about a woman contemplating abortion — “usually a girlfriend” — sometimes he calls the pregnant woman. When she does not want to talk, he says he will engineer bumping into her and force a conversation.

He also admonishes the fathers, waving ultrasound images in the faces of men looking to leave their pregnant girlfriends. “If men behaved decently, women would not get abortions,” he said.

While abhorred by many, he is admired in the religious communities where he preaches.

Monika Niklas, a 42-year-old mother of two from Szczecin, first attended Mass with Father Kancelarczyk not long after she had learned that her unborn baby had Down syndrome. This was 10 years ago, before the ban included fetal abnormalities, and she had been contemplating an abortion. “I thought my world was crumbling down,” she said.

During his service, Father Kancelarczyk had played a video from his phone with the sound of what he described as a fetal heartbeat.

“It was so moving,” Ms. Niklas recalled. “After the Mass, we went to talk to him, and told him about our situation.” He was one of the first people to tell her and her husband they were going to make it and offered support.

After her son Krzys was born, Ms. Niklas gave up on her career as an architect to take care of him full time. Krzys, now 9, got a place in a school only this fall, one example of how government support falls far short of matching their needs.

She now advises expecting parents of disabled children, trying to counsel them to keep their babies — but without sugarcoating it.

“I never just tell them, ‘It will be all right,’ because it will be hard,” she said. “But if you accept that your life will be different from what you had envisaged, you can be very happy.”

“We have these ideas about what our children will be — a lawyer, a doctor, an astronaut,” she added. “Krzys taught me about love.”

But in all her counsel, she said, one thing barely features: the abortion ban.

“This has not impacted how people make decisions,” she said. “Those who want to get an abortion do it anyway, only abroad.”

Many women here concurred.

Kasia, who also did not want her full name used because the stigma that surrounds the issue, is one of nine women currently living at Father Kancelarczyk’s shelter. She was 23 when she became pregnant. She said her boyfriend had abused her — the police refused to intervene — and then left her. Her mother had kicked her out of the house. A friend contacted an abortion clinic across the border in Germany.

“It is not difficult,” she said of getting an illegal termination. “It is a matter of getting a phone number.”

In the end, it was a near-miscarriage in the eighth week of her pregnancy that changed Kasia’s mind and persuaded her to carry out her pregnancy.

Father Kancelarczyk offered her not just free room and board in his shelter but a lawyer, who took the former boyfriend to court. He is now serving a 10-month sentence and might lose custody.

“I feel safe now,” Kasia said.

Father Kancelarczyk says the number of women referred to him because they were considering abortion did not increase when Poland’s ban was tightened for fetal abnormalities. But he still supports the ban.

“The law always has a normative effect,” he said. “What is permitted is perceived as good, and what is forbidden as bad.”

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