October 30, 2015 / 5:41 PM / 4 years ago

Polish ombudsman says IVF bill discriminates against single women

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s ombudsman has challenged a new law on in-vitro fertilization (IVF) as unconstitutional, saying it should not stop single women who started the procedure before the changed rules came into effect from completing it.

IVF treatment has been available in Poland for more than two decades but the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country passed legislation regulating it only this year, becoming the last European Union member to do so.

In its current form, the law - which comes into force on Sunday - does not allow a woman to undergo the treatment unless she names a man who will recognize the child as his.

This undermines the legal rights of single women who have already began the procedure using sperm from an anonymous donor, the ombudsman’s office said, requesting the constitutional court to review the text.

The issue stirred a heated debate ahead of last Sunday’s parliamentary election, won by the conservative Law and Justice, which shares many Roman Catholic views on social issues.

The Church opposes in-vitro fertilization, saying it divorces marital sex from procreation and could result in the destruction of fertilized embryos.

Under the new law, a deep-frozen embryos fertilized with donated sperm will be in a legal limbo unless the single women involved can find a male partner to claim it as his.

It is possible that some women may seek to enter fictitious relationships to conclude the procedure, Karolina Miksa, legal expert at the ombudsman’s office, said on Friday.

“It’s possible to imagine a variety of ways for a woman to bypass this regulation, but no one should be forced to do so,” Miksa said.


The ombudsman’s office is also questioning the part of the bill that allows for unused embryos to be donated after a 20-year waiting period, or after the providers of the genetic material die.

“Against the will of a female donor - and even without her knowing - an other woman could give birth to a child developed from her (egg cell),” its statement said, adding that this could undermine a constitutional freedom to decide on having children.

It may take years for the constitutional court to analyze the ombudsman’s application, which does not stop the bill from coming into force, Miksa said.

Should the court rule that the parts questioned by the ombudsman are unconstitutional, they may be removed from the bill. Alternatively, the court could order parliament to amend the legislation.

Separately, the ombudsman’s office is analyzing whether depriving all single women of access to the procedure does not violate the constitution, Miksa said.

The bill, drafted and approved by the ruling Civic Platform party, has been repeatedly attacked by the largest opposition party, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), which said it did not offer enough protection to embryos.

PiS, which won an outright majority in Poland’s parliamentary election last Sunday and is due to form the next government, has signaled it will seek to amend the bill.

Reporting by Wiktor Szary; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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