21 Dec 2018

Access to in vitro fertilization under attack in Poland

A new bill would limit in vitro fertilization to married couples only. How does that really compare to other European countries?

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Access to in vitro fertilization under attack in Poland - NewsMavens
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A group of conservative Polish MPs, led by the independent MP Jan Klawiter, has proposed a new draft bill that would further limit in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Poland.

IVF is now available to heterosexual couples in stable relationships, but this bill would limit it only to married couples. Additionally, it would only allow for fertilization of one egg per couple, ban cryopreservation of embryos, and abolish anonymous reproductive cells donorship.

The draft was created in cooperation with the ultra-conservative think-tank Institute Ordo Iuris, which was also responsible for the draft bill of a complete ban on abortion that sparked mass protests in 2016. It was also possibly authored by them. As Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita has reported, the name of one of the Institute's lawyers appears in the "Author" field of the draft PDF file.

It is not certain if the bill will secure wider parliamentary support. But opposition to IVF is not uncommon among Polish officials. During the Senate hearing on December 12, the newly appointed children's ombudsman, Mikołaj Pawlak, called IVF a “despicable” method.


In the written justification of the project (p. 11), the proponents attempt to show the proposed limitation to married couples on the backdrop of other European countries’ legislation. They state that:

"It is worth adding that the legal limitation of IVF to married couples only is present in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey.

Limitations of access to state financial aid for this method to marriages only are in effect in Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden and Turkey"


The information in the document is based on an outdated source, published by the Senate Chancellery in 2009, which does not correspond to the current state of affairs.

Limitation of IVF to married couples does still exist in Turkey and Czech Republic (Albania is yet another European country with the same limitation). Lithuania, Portugal, Switzerland - listed in the same category in the draft bill - don’t have such limitations.

When it comes to restrictions of state subsidies for IVF, again it’s true that in Turkey and Czech Republic financial aid is limited to married couples (this is also true for Latvia and Romania). This is, however, not true for Germany, Sweden and Cyprus (in Cyprus, IVF is not subsidized by the state at all).

Furthermore, Czech Republic is the only EU country which limits IVF to married couples, while Czech Republic, Latvia and Romania are the only EU countries which limit state subsidies for IVF to married couples only.

These are the findings based on the data we gathered for 42 European countries, which show that there are less limitations currently in effect than presented in the draft bill. Moreover, out of the 42 countries we looked into, in 21 IVF is not legally limited to couples, married or unmarried (see data here).

Taking this into account, but also all the other changes proposed in the draft, Poland’s law on IVF would be among the most restrictive in Europe if this bill is to pass. It’s also worth noticing that other proposed restrictions would greatly reduce the chances for a successful outcome of the procedure. A critical article published on “OKO” website quotes Katarzyna Kozioł, an IVF expert, who warns that limiting the procedure to only one fertilized egg at a time, would decrease the efficacy of the procedure tenfold.


Listing countries with similar limitations to IVF as those proposed by Polish conservatives, gives an impression that such regulations are relatively common across Europe, including the EU countries. This is clearly not the case. The claims from the draft bill contain incorrect and outdated information about availibility of IVF in European countries and we rate them as disinformation and manipulation of facts. The underlying idea that this path to motherhood should only be available to women in (heterosexual) marriages we rate as an example of intersectional discrimination.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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