Italian lawmakers are campaigning for stricter national regulation of the field of assisted reproductive technology. In a debate on new fertility laws that took place in the Senate last week, legislators from a variety of political backgrounds called Italy the 'Wild West of assisted reproduction', because people can travel to the country for many controversial treatments that are not available in their own countries. The proposed new law is very restrictive, and has been condemned by scientists worldwide and many female parliamentarians as 'medieval'.
The debate took place two days after the Senate approved, by 141 votes to 122, the first of 18 articles of the controversial bill on assisted procreation. Senators confirmed the text passed by the lower House in June 2002: 'In order to favour the solution of reproduction problems stemming from sterility or infertility, the used of assisted procreation is allowed, with the conditions included in this law, which insures the rights of all the subjects involved, including the conceived. The use of assisted procreation is allowed when no other efficient treatment to remove the causes of sterility or infertility exist.'
The new law proposes, among other restrictions, a number of different bans on research using embryos, as well as bans on embryo freezing, donor insemination and the provision of any assisted reproduction treatment for single women. It also says that no more than three eggs can be fertilised at any one time, and that any eggs fertilised must all be transferred to the uterus simultaneously.
Last week, over 500 amendments to the bill were presented to the Senate. Those in opposition to the new laws hope that at least one amendment will be approved, forcing the discussion back to the Italian parliament for a third time. 'Scientific research will be cut off in Italy', said Ermanno Greco, from the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at Rome's European Hospital. 'This law will prevent scientists from working on some of the main trends in fertility research: embryos as a source of stem cells and genetic investigations to prevent diseases', he added. The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) condemned the proposed new laws as 'disastrous'.