Thursday 4 November 2010

Polish bishops defend embryonic children by opposing IVF

The legalisation of IVF is one of, if not the, most important political issue in Poland right now. The Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, is currently debating several bills with different proposals simultaneously. According to the Warsaw Voice newspaper, last week five of the six original bills passed at first reading and have been sent to parliamentary committees. The bill that was rejected was authored by Teresa Wargocka of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party. However, one of the bills which has survived, authored by Boleslaw Piecha, also of PiS, proposes a wide (but not complete) prohibition of IVF. Of the other bills, a more permissive one authored by Jaroslaw Gowin of the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party would allow IVF whilst aiming to ban the freezing of embryos and to limit state-funded IVF to married couples only. Another bill, authored by Malgorzata Kidawa-BÅ‚onska (PO) and favoured by prime minister Donald Tusk (PO), would see IVF funded by the state. A bill favoured by the left-wing SLD party would allow IVF for homosexual couples.

Back in December 2008, some of our pro-life colleagues in Poland had expressed concern that the Polish Catholic bishops' conference were reported as supporting the compromise proposals of Mr Gowin, rather than a complete ban on IVF. However, last month the bishops' conference issued a strong statement against IVF, and we therefore hope that the bishops will support a complete ban on IVF and stand firm in their opposition to compromise legislation. The bishop's statement is below in full (translated by Magdalena Ozimic, wife of Anthony, SPUC's communications manager):

To Mr Bronislaw Komorowski, President of the Republic of Poland, Warsaw, 18 October 2010

Dear Mr President,

Since Parliament is again deliberating matters of the legal regulation of IVF, we raise our voice to ensure that the serious moral arguments and respect for the position of people who regard the defence of the right to life of every human as the primary moral principle, are not overlooked. We would like to warn against adopting laws allowing legal arrangements which are irreconcilable both with objective scientific ideas about the beginning of human biological life, as well as with unequivocal moral indications, coming from the Decalogue and the Gospel, and which the Church reminds us about.

1. The in-vitro method incurs huge human costs, which are related to it. For one child to be born, death occurs in every case, at various stages of the medical procedure, of many human beings. Even more embryos are subjected to freezing. Science and faith underline, that from the moment of conception, we are dealing with a human being, a human person in the embryonic phase.

2. The effects of the procedure of IVF on children conceived in this way are still not fully examined. More and more studies are showing that the effect of this procedure is lower immunity, prematurity, low birth weight, complications, and more frequent incidence of various genetic diseases. Therefore this method is simply dangerous for children conceived with its aid.

3. IVF is a younger sister to eugenics - an allegedly medical procedure - recalling the worst connotations of a not-so-distant history. The IVF procedure presupposes 'selection' of embryos, which means killing them. It's about eliminating the weaker human embryos, diagnosed as defective, which is the 'selective eugenics' often condemned by Pope John Paul II and other authorities.

4. Incalculable are also the social consequences that can result from the spread of the IVF method. A child conceived that way may have three mothers: genetic (donor of the genetic material), biological (the one who gave birth), and social (the one who will bring up the child). Fatherhood in case of IVF is even more difficult to determine. So-called "donors of genetic material" are sometimes anonymous, but known are also cases where they are made responsible for paying maintenance for the child conceived with their genetic material. The separation of procreation from the marital act always brings harmful social consequences, and is especially detrimental to children coming into the world as a result of actions by third parties. Legal legitimacy of the IVF procedure results in an inevitable redefinition of fatherhood, motherhood and marital fidelity. It also introduces confusion in family relationships and contributes to undermining the foundations of social life.

5. At the same time, there is an urgent need for programmes aimed at preventing infertility, whose causes are known and determined by conscious human activity, and for the treatment of infertility, which the IVF technology is not. People using it remain infertile and ill.

6. Sympathising with families' suffering because of lack of offspring, we praise all those who, despite personal drama, keep faith with the rules of Christian ethics and who are open to welcoming children through adoption.

We hope that the arguments presented here will become a subject for reflection and will encourage towards objectivity those to whom the nation has given respect and trust at this present stage in Polish history.

+ Jozef Michalik, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference
Kazimierz Gorny, President of the Council for the Family of the Polish Episcopal Conference
+ Henryk Hoser, President of the Expert Group for Bioethical Matters of the Polish Episcopal Conference

Marshal of the Sejm
Marshal of the Senate
Prime Minister
President of the Parliamentary Clubs
President of the Parliamentary Health Commission
President of the Parliamentary Commission on Social Policy and Family

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