New Polish textbook provokes anger with passage on fertility

Aug 15, 2022, 7:00 PM | Updated: Aug 16, 2022, 7:06 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A new high school textbook produced under the auspices of Poland’s conservative government has provoked 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 a recent days on a passage that describes what the author views as modern approaches to sexuality and child bearing. The passage appears 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 the treatment of sex as entertainment and fertility as human production, one could say breeding. This raises a fundamental question: who will love the children thus produced?”

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

“You can read that children conceived using IVF are children from breeding farms that no one loves,” Tusk said. Of the government officials, he added: “There is no limit to villainy for them. There is no line for them they will not cross.”

Poland’s Education Ministry has denied the section is about IVF. Czarnek threatened to sue Tusk for slander if the former Polish prime minister and former top European Union official does 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 no one loves children conceived via IVF.

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

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

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

The book was added to a list of school books in July in preparation for a new subject called “history and the present,” which the government is introducing this fall.

Education Ministry representatives faced questions about the book in July from the political opposition in parliament and stressed that teachers remain free to choose which textbooks to use.

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

Amid anger by many Poles, the father of a daughter born thanks to IVF, launched an online appeal seeking to raise 30,000 zlotys ($6,500) for the legal costs of suing Czarnek and trying to block distribution of the book. His appeal raised over 280,000 zlotys ($60,000).

Poland’s governing Law and Justice party has close ties to the Roman Catholic church and promotes conservative social policies. The country’s already restrictive abortion law became more prohibitive under the party’s rule and now outlaws abortions in almost all cases.

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

Meanwhile, the traditionally Catholic nation is becoming more secular, with conservatives and liberals clashing in an ever more bitter fashion.

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New Polish textbook provokes anger with passage on fertility