Polish parliament votes to restore IVF funding, overturning policy of outgoing government

Poland’s parliament has voted in favour of plans to restore state funding for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment for couples unable to naturally conceive children.

That would reverse a decision by the outgoing conservative government, which ended the funding in 2015, and implement a policy promise to restore it made by the incoming ruling coalition of three opposition groups.

❗️#Sejm uchwalił nowelizację ustawy dot. finansowania in vitro z budżetu państwa. pic.twitter.com/o0UesF94Co

— Sejm RP🇵🇱 (@KancelariaSejmu) November 29, 2023

All MPs present for the vote from those three groups – the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), centre-right Third Way (Trzecia Droga) and The Left (Lewica) – voted in favour of the bill, which will provide at least 500 million zloty (€115 million) of annual financing for IVF.

They were also joined by 22 MPs from the outgoing ruling Law and Justice (PiS), including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and government spokesman Piotr Müller. The PiS leadership had not insisted on party discipline in the vote.

However, most PiS MPs – 102 of them – voted against the bill while a further 49 – including party leader Jarosław Kaczyński – abstained. All present MPs from the far-right Confederation (Konfederacja) also voted against it. But the bill passed with 268 votes in the 460-seat chamber.

In 2015, just a few weeks after coming to power, PiS moved to end the IVF financing scheme introduced by the previous government two years earlier. It claimed there was insufficient funding, though as a party with close ties to the Catholic church it also had religious reasons for opposing IVF.

In response, a number of large cities that are under opposition control stepped in to provide municipal funding for couples to receive IVF.

Last year, a so-called citizen’s initiative – a form of legislation that can be submitted to parliament by outside groups if it obtains 100,000 public signatures – was introduced to restore national funding. It received support from opposition groups.

It is that legislation that has now been approved by the Sejm, the more powerful lower house of parliament. It will now pass to the upper-house Senate, where the incoming government also has a majority. But in any case, the Senate can only delay, not block, bills supported by the Sejm.

Poland’s largest opposition party has launched a campaign to restore government funding for IVF, which was ended by the conservative ruling party after it came to power in 2015 https://t.co/zp3Chg4Ltq

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 27, 2022

Once approved by parliament, the legislation passes on to President Andrzej Duda, a conservative PiS ally. He can sign the bill into law, veto it, or pass it to the constitutional court for assessment.

Last week, Duda’s chief of staff, Marcin Mastalerek, told broadcaster Polsat that, “knowing President Duda and according to my knowledge, the president will not block such a bill [on IVF]”. But he added that Duda would have to first see the final version of the law.

Should the president decide to veto it, his decision can be overturned by a three fifths majority of MPs in the Sejm.

The incoming ruling coalition has promised to introduce a range of measures to support reproductive rights following eight years of conservative PiS rule, including overturning the near-total abortion ban introduced in 2021.

One member of Poland’s likely new ruling coalition, The Left, says polls show a majority in favour of abortion on demand.

In fact, they do not. And this issue is likely to be one of the hardest for the incoming government to resolve, writes @danieltilles1 https://t.co/4Nze9wwEC3

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 20, 2023

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Main image credit: Patryk Ogorzalek / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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