Polish bishops wade into IVF debate

Tue Oct 19, 2010 6:51am EDT
 
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By Gabriela Baczynska

WARSAW (Reuters) - Bishops of Poland's influential Roman Catholic Church have branded in vitro fertilization (IVF) "the younger sister of eugenics" in a letter aimed at swaying lawmakers ahead of a parliamentary debate.

But their intervention, two weeks after the church condemned the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Prize for medicine to IVF pioneer Robert Edwards, triggered an unusually sharp response from lawmakers who say the clergy should not meddle in politics.

"The in vitro method comes at great human cost. To give birth to one child ... many humans suffer death at different stages of the medical process," said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.

The letter alluded indirectly to the practice of eugenics by Nazi Germany during World War Two, which involved ruthless medical experiments on prisoners and ethnic minorities as part of a drive to strengthen the "purity" of the German race.

The bishops' objection centers on the fact that generally multiple eggs are fertilized outside the womb, but not all are subsequently implanted in the mother.

"IVF requires the 'selection' of embryos, which means killing them. It is about selecting weaker human embryos deemed to be unfit," said the letter.

Poland lacks laws precisely regulating IVF. Parliament will debate several bills ranging from a complete ban to ensuring full state co-financing of the procedure.

RIVAL BILLS   Continued...