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Polish lawmakers mull six IVF draft laws

October 23, 2010

Poland's parliament launched debate on six draft laws on in vitro fertilisation Friday, an available but unregulated medical procedure in Poland, strongly opposed by the Catholic Church.

The drafts range from a total ban punishable by prison to the authorization of IVF including the freezing of embryos and its reimbursement by the state.

The governing liberal Civic Platform (PO) party proposed that all six widely ranging draft IVF laws be debated further in parliamentary committees.

The opposition conservative Law and Justice (PiS) urged the immediate rejection of drafts authorizing the procedure while the opposition left-wing SLD called for the rejection of drafts prohibiting IVF.

Parliament is to vote on the drafts next week.

Poland's powerful Roman Catholic Church has launched a crusade against in vitro fertilization (IVF), threatening legislators with excommunication if they back proposals to authorize and fund the procedure.

The move has stunned both the government and medical professionals involved in the treatment.

"The threats, attempts to pressure and blackmail are amazing," Pawel Gras, spokesman for Poland's liberal government, told the private broadcaster Radio Zet on Tuesday.

President Bronislaw Komorowski, himself a Catholic and father of five, has called for a reasonable compromise that respects Catholics' sensibilities and the needs of "many, often desperate couples, seeking a way to have a child".

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Wednesday that politicians were responsible to citizens, not the Church hierarchy.

Tusk supports a draft submitted by his liberal Civic Platform party which authorizes the freezing of embryos. An alternative draft does not allow for this freezing process, making it less effective.

The Church views the latter draft as less harmful because it prohibits storage of IVF embryos and therefore their selection and destruction. The Vatican regards an embryo as a human being from the second of conception.

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