New Polish textbook provokes anger with passage on fertility

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A new high school textbook produced under the auspices of Poland’s conservative government has drawn criticism for what some government critics see as an attempt to indoctrinate young people.

Criticism of the contemporary history book, titled ‘History and the Present’, has focused in recent days on a passage that outlines what the author sees as modern approaches to sexuality and childbearing. The passage seems to take a dim view of in vitro fertilization, without using the term.

It reads: “Increasingly sophisticated methods of separating sex from love and fertility lead to treating sex as entertainment and fertility as a human production, one might say reproduction. This raises a fundamental question: who will love the children thus produced?

Donald Tusk, the leader of the centrist opposition Civic Platform party, denounced the move, along with Education Minister Premyslaw Czarnek and other right-wing government members, during a meeting with Tusk supporters the last week.

“You can read that kids conceived through IVF are kids from cattle farms that nobody likes,” Tusk said. Of government officials, he added, “There is no limit to the wickedness for them. There is no line for them that they will not cross.

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The Polish Ministry of Education denied that the section is about IVF. Czarnek threatened to sue Tusk for defamation if the former Polish prime minister and former top European Union official did not apologize.

Czarnek insisted that neither he nor the ministry was the author or publisher of textbooks and that “History and the Present” does not say that no one likes children conceived through IVF.

The Department of Education, reacting to Tusk, said on Twitter that only a “sick and mad with hate” mind would interpret the passage this way.

Polish news portal Onet reported that the manual’s author, Wojciech Roszkowski, has in the past used similar language to describe in vitro fertilization, citing what he said was a recording of him saying: effects of this ideology in vitro have not yet been fully revealed, but I think they will be nightmarish.

Other passages in the book have also worried critics. A section titled “Ideology and Nazism” indicates that a number of popular ideologies include socialism, liberalism, feminism and gender ideology.

The book was added to a list of textbooks in July in preparation for a new subject called “History and Present”, which the government will introduce this autumn.

Education ministry officials were questioned about the book in July by the political opposition in parliament and stressed that teachers remain free to choose which textbooks to use.

One MP, Katarzyna Lubnauer, a mathematician who taught, argued at the time that a textbook “should educate and not be an object of ideological indoctrination of young people”.

Amid the anger of many Poles, the father of a girl born through IVF has launched an online appeal seeking 30,000 zlotys ($6,500) for court costs related to Czarnek’s lawsuit and to the attempt to block the distribution of the book. His appeal brought in more than 280,000 zlotys ($60,000).

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has close ties to the Roman Catholic Church and promotes conservative social policies. The country’s already restrictive abortion law has become more prohibitive under party rule and now prohibits abortion in almost all cases.

The party also ended a national program to help fund fertility treatments for couples, leading to a sharp drop in the number of births assisted by fertility treatments. Party leaders have also lashed out at the LGBTQ rights movement.

Meanwhile, the traditionally Catholic nation is becoming more secular, with conservatives and liberals clashing ever more bitterly.

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