9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Fertility, Reproductive Decisions and Childbearing Building II, C4.01

Infertile women facing catholic morality in Poland. The case of in vitro fertilisation

In Poland in vitro fertilisation, although practiced for many years, is completely unregulated and accessible only to women who can afford it. Recent policy initiatives to regulate this area pose formidable challenges to women's feminist movement. In the country where moral values of the Catholic church dominate the public discourse and hardly any political, social or professional organization dares to oppose it, where women's reproductive rights are not highly regarded and even those who qualify for a legal abortion cannot be certain to get one, there are good reasons to fear that new controls will be imposed on women and their reproductive bodies. And indeed, the regulations being drafted by the main political parties range from the total prohibition of IVF to limiting the access to married couples only, excluding sufferers or carriers of genetic conditions, forbidding creation of spare embryos, forbidding pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and further eroding the highly restricted right to abortion.

As was the case in the regulatory debates carried in the Western-Europe at the end of the last century, the public discourse revolves around the embryo and its protection while women's needs are hardly mentioned. But in recent months Polish feminists become more visible in the public arena and make efforts to enter the political arena. The perspectives of the Polish feminists differ strikingly from those of the feminist movements in the West in the 1980s and 1990s. There is no debate about the liberating or oppressive character of reproductive technologies. Feminists are united in claiming the women's right to the 'state of the art' infertility treatment and in defending the right to abortion. They prove capable of forging alliances with a range of public and political actors, of mobilizing public support and of organizing opposition which catches the attention of the media. Will they be successful?

Against the backdrop of attempts by the church and the political establishment to institute a post-transition Poland as a 'model of moral order' for Europe, I will analyse the evolving dynamics of the Polish women's struggle in defence of their reproductive rights.