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Polish justice minister fired over comments on IVF and embryo experimentation

7 May 2013
Appeared in BioNews 703

Poland's justice minister has been dismissed from his position after weeks of conflict with the country's prime minister over state-funded IVF and civil partnership.

Jaroslaw Gowin is a well-known conservative figure in Poland's centre-right Civic Platform party. He had been calling fellow politicians to vote against government-funded IVF treatment and legislation supporting civil partnerships.

Most controversially, Gowin claimed that German scientists had likely been using imported Polish embryos, a practice that is illegal in Germany.

'German scientists are importing embryos from other countries', Gowin told the TVN24 news channel, 'probably also from Poland, and conducting experiments on them'.

The German embassy in Poland asked the Polish justice ministry to provide more detail of the allegations. Gowin responded that he received the information five years ago from Polish IVF doctors, who he did not name.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk claimed that he had not been sacked because of his opinions on such matters, but more how he had been voicing them.

'I have no time to comment every week on a minister's behaviour only because he goes too far in politicising the issues which are in the realm of his public activity', Tusk told Polskie Radio.

Speaking at a news conference, Tusk added: 'I hope Jaroslaw Gowin will remain in the Civic Platform and will fight for his rights within the party'.

Poland is a strongly Catholic country and abortion is outlawed. As such, regulation and state provision of IVF - in which unused embryos are often discarded - has provoked considerable debate. The opposition Law and Justice party has pushed for a ban on the technique.

Currently IVF is unregulated in Poland and entirely privately financed. However from July state funding will be made available for 15,000 couples as part of a three-year IVF programme. This initiative was launched after Tusk's government opted to sidestep the prolonged parliamentary wrangling and pass a ministerial decree.

PM sacks justice minister after IVF dispute
The News (Poland) |  29 April 2013
Polish justice minister fired after embryo remarks
Guardian |  29 April 2013
Polish justice minister sacked over German embryo row
France 24 |  29 April 2013
Polish premier fires justice minister for embryo comments
Reuters |  29 April 2013
Row after Polish minister accuses Germany of embryo tests
GlobalPost |  24 April 2013
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