WARSAW, March 10 (Reuters) – Poland’s government approved a draft bill to regulate in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment on Tuesday, in a move aimed at attracting voters ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections later this year.
IVF has been performed in Poland for the last 25 years, but traditionally Roman Catholic Poland has so far not passed legislation regulating the treatment, remaining the only European Union member not to have done so.
The Roman Catholic Church opposes in-vitro fertilisation, saying it divorces marital sex from procreation and could result in the destruction of fertilised embryos.
The ruling centre-right Civic Platform party, in power since 2007, has tried in the past to set up a legal framework allowing IVF, but failed because Catholic conservatives in its ranks wanted it explicitly outlawed.
Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said on Tuesday over 1.5 million couples in Poland, a country of 38 million, are affected by difficulties in having children.
“We will be looking for a wide support for the draft bill on IVF,” Kopacz told reporters. “Human dramas, such as infertility, have neither a left- nor a right-wing character.”
To get the bill passed in parliament, Kopacz will most likely have to seek support outside her Civic Platform (PO) party since its more conservative deputies may vote against the government.
Back in 2012, some Civic Platform backbenchers promoted a bill that would tighten Poland’s already restrictive abortion law. The bill failed, but showed a deep split over social issues within the ruling party.
Kopacz said she was optimistic the bill would be approved before parliamentary elections this autumn. Poland will also hold presidential elections in May this year.
Many Civic Platform supporters, usually better educated city dwellers, have been discouraged by the party’s backing down in efforts to legalise gay unions and pass laws on IVF.
The current bill would make IVF available to married and unmarried couples, but only after all other methods are exhausted or deemed inadequate.
The bill would also ban sales and destruction of human embryos, cloning of human embryos and manipulation of human DNA. Destruction of an embryo capable of development would be punished by up to five years in prison.
Poland already finances in-vitro fertilisation treatment for couples even though the procedure was in a legal limbo. That move was backed in late 2012 by former prime minister Donald Tusk, currently serving as president of the EU Council. (Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Tom Heneghan)