Poland and IVF Deeply divisive
LATELY Poland has appeared as a rapidly modernising place, gradually less influenced by its old-fashioned Catholic clergy. The country now has one openly gay, one transsexual and two black MPs, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Recent surveys suggest more than half the population supports at least some sort of legal recognition for same-sex couples, if not marriage. (Parliament will look at this on July 24th but the current proposals, tabled by smaller parties, are unlikely to pass.)
Conservatives are resisting the changing social attitudes all the more strongly for sensing that they are swimming against the tide. One issue that pits the Catholic Church against the majority of the people is in vitro fertilisation (IVF), a subject of intense debate in the Polish media. The Vatican regards it as a sin because it splits sex from conception and because unused embryos will die. Polish bishops famously described the practice as “refined abortion” and have threatened to excommunicate MPs who vote for anything other than to ban it.
Yet more than two thirds of Poles oppose any ban on IVF treatment. And 85% of couples in the 25 to 30 age range told a recent study that they would consider using IVF if necessary. In the absence of any legislation, IVF is legal in Poland – but it has to be done privately. The people, and the European Union, have long been demanding a law that would regulate the use of the technique and allow the state health service to cover at least part of its costs.