2020欧洲杯体育投注网In 2012, as she approached her thirty-eighth birthday, Irena, a single lawyer living in Warsaw, began researching fertility clinics with a friend. Neither woman had been having much luck dating—Irena blames her “feminist attitude,” which is not widely shared in conservative Poland—but they didn’t want to miss out on parenthood. Browsing the Web sites of the clinics, they noticed that almost all of them featured only photos of couples. Irena’s friend phoned to confirm that they would treat single women, too.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网Irena’s first five artificial-insemination attempts failed, and so did her first attempt at in-vitro fertilization, in which eggs are retrieved from a patient’s ovaries and fertilized before being transferred to the uterus. At the time, the Polish government was offering to reimburse heterosexual couples for their fertility treatments. The procedures were expensive, and Irena, being single, had to pay for them herself. Still, her second round of IVF, in the summer of 2015, looked promising. She got six quality embryos, froze four, and transferred the other two.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网That summer, the laws covering fertility treatment in Poland were shifting. Informed by the Vatican’s absolute opposition to IVF, the socially conservative Law and Justice Party, known by its Polish acronym, PiS, had put forward legislation that would ban IVF and criminalize its provision. PiS held a minority in Poland’s parliament, but support for the party was growing. A revised version of the IVF bill, seen as a compromise between conservative, Church-backed parties and the governing centrist coalition, proposed to restrict fertility treatment to heterosexual couples who were married or living together. It would require clinics to get signatures from would-be mothers and fathers, who pledged to take legal and financial responsibility for any children they had as a result of the treatment, before IVF could take place.
This piece was supported by the Pulitzer Center.
That June, the compromise law passed. I live in a horrible, patriarchal, conservative country, Irena thought, when she heard about it. Luckily, her transfer had worked, and, in August—two months before the new law was to take effect—she learned that she was pregnant. Then, at ten weeks, she miscarried. The law was now in effect, and, as a single woman, she was blocked from accessing her own frozen embryos unless she could convince a male friend to sign with her. This would make him financially liable for her child and grant him custody rights. Moreover, another provision in the law, intended to insure that unused embryos wouldn’t be destroyed, mandated that they be donated to an infertile heterosexual couple if they weren’t used within twenty years. The four remaining frozen embryos, stored in a cryotank, were Irena’s last chance at parenthood. There was now a real possibility that they’d be given to someone else.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网Irena—who, like the other single women I interviewed for this story, requested that her name be changed to protect her identity—is a cheerful person, partial to loose, comfortable clothing and statement necklaces. Recounting her experience, at the dining table of my Warsaw Airbnb, she was indignant. “For me, it was something unimaginable to agree with this legal situation, that my embryos are waiting for me and I cannot have access to them,” she said. “So I tried to think, what to do?”
For the past few decades, church attendance in Poland has been declining; still, eighty-six per cent of Polish citizens identify as Catholic. In 2008, the Vatican released the “,” a document that updated its older guidance on reproductive technologies. The Instruction declared it “ethically unacceptable to dissociate procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act.” In another passage, IVF and abortion are linked as morally repellent expressions of a world view that reduces human life to a disposable commodity. “The desire for a child cannot justify the ‘production’ of offspring,” the authors argue, “just as the desire not to have a child cannot justify the abandonment or destruction of a child once he or she has been conceived.”
2020欧洲杯体育投注网Many Catholics object to the fact that embryos are routinely discarded during the IVF process: in explaining the opposition of Polish Catholics to IVF, Tymoteusz Zych, a legal scholar at the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture—a conservative, Warsaw-based think tank, which has advocated for a total ban on abortion—cited “the notion of human embryos as human beings.” Zych also invoked the science-fiction film “Gattaca,” from 1997, in which society is divided between those who can afford to genetically engineer their children and those who cannot. A common step in IVF treatment is pre-implantation genetic testing, in which embryos are screened for genetic defects. “This may lead to elimination from society of certain groups,” Zych told me. “Human nature is not perfect; human nature is complex. And, as we deal with something as basic as the fertilization of human beings, we have to be extremely cautious.”
2020欧洲杯体育投注网And yet, in Poland, conservative opposition to IVF is not driven solely by religion. The first Polish IVF child was born in 1987, in the northeastern city of Bialystok; after the collapse of Communism, private fertility clinics proliferated. Some Church officials condemned them from the outset. But it wasn’t until 2003, as Poland prepared to join the European Union, that politicians seized on IVF as a nationalist issue. Some borrowed language from the country’s ongoing abortion debate, tying IVF to what they called the West’s “civilization of death.” Others connected it with Europe’s cultural liberalism, against which they see Poland as a Christian bulwark. Around the world, reproductive technologies and their consequences have raised novel and complex questions about who or what counts as family, or even as a person. But in Poland these questions have become especially charged. As Magdalena Radkowska-Walkowicz, an anthropologist at the University of Warsaw, has written, the technology has become a screen onto which its opponents can project both new and time-honored fears.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网Anti-IVF rhetoric takes a number of forms. Polish politicians and religious leaders have sometimes described IVF using nationalistic overtones that scholars have connected to a resurgent anti-Semitism. Catholic media routinely depict children conceived through IVF as unnatural and genetically suspect; in a survey of Polish articles about IVF children, Radkowska-Walkowicz found that they were often characterized as suffering from physical deformities, such as a protruding forehead or dangling tongue, or from mental illnesses, including “survivor syndrome” in relation to unused embryos. (There is no evidence for these claims.) These purported defects are said to go undetected—and so, Radkowska-Walkowicz writes, IVF children are imagined to lurk among the general population, their “biological otherness” polluting the Polish body politic.
Other IVF opponents position themselves as protectors of frozen embryos. In Poland, the political scientist Janine P. Holc writes, the embryo is sometimes seen as “the purest citizen”—an unformed innocent in need of protection by the Polish constitution. Anna Krawczak, a doctoral candidate at the University of Warsaw and the former chairperson of the patient-advocacy group Nasz Bocian (the name means “Our Stork”), which has fought for a more inclusive IVF law, told me that IVF opponents have found inventive ways of linking the procedure to abortion. Protesters gather in front of IVF clinics holding posters that show images of human fetuses, icy blue against a black background. Each fetus bears an imagined name: “Marysia—Frozen,” “Marcin—Frozen,” “Olek—Frozen,” “Ola—Frozen.” The last protester in line holds a color photo of a sleeping, cherubic baby boy: “Mateusz—He’s the only one who made it . . . .” So intense is the debate around IVF, Krawczak told me, that “the frozen embryo is one of the main political actors in Poland.”