New Polish textbook sparks 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 describes what the author sees as modern approaches to sexuality and motherhood. The passage seems to take a dim view of in vitro fertilization, without using the term.

He says: “Increasingly sophisticated methods of separating sex from love and fertility lead to the treatment of sex as entertainment and fertility as 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 passage, as did Education Minister Premyslaw Czarnek and other members of the right-wing government, during a meeting with Tusk supporters last week.

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

The Polish Ministry of Education has denied that the section is about IVF. Czarnek has 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 were authors or publishers of textbooks and that “History and the Present” does not say that nobody loves IVF-conceived children.

The Education Ministry, reacting to Tusk, said on Twitter that only a “sick and hate-crazed” mind 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 he said was a recording of him saying, “the effects of this ideology in vitro have not yet been fully revealed, but I think they will be a nightmare.”

Other passages in the book also worried critics. A section titled “Ideology and Nazism” says that various popular ideologies include socialism, liberalism, feminism, and gender ideology.

The book was added to a school textbook list in July in preparation for a new subject called “history and present,” which the government will introduce this fall.

Representatives from the Education Ministry faced questions about the book in July from the political opposition in parliament, stressing 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 the object of ideological indoctrination of young people.”

Amid the anger of many Poles, the father of a daughter born through IVF launched an online appeal 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 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 became more prohibitive under the party’s rule and now prohibits abortions in almost all cases.

The party also ended a national program to help finance fertility treatment for couples, causing a sharp drop in the number of births aided by fertility treatment. 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 in an increasingly bitter way.


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