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Italy passes strictest ART laws

16 December 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 238

The Italian Senate has passed a bill governing assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), said to be the most restrictive in Europe. Parliamentarians voted 169-90 in favour of the bill, the first that the country has passed in this area. Italian lawmakers, while debating the new law, were concerned that Italy was seen as the 'Wild West of assisted reproduction' because, in the past, people have been able to travel to the country for many controversial treatments not available in their own countries.

Because of this, the new laws proposed are very restrictive, limiting the use of ARTs to 'stable heterosexual couples'. Research using human embryos is prohibited, as well as embryo freezing, gamete donation, surrogacy and the provision of any ARTs for single women or same-sex couples. The bill 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. PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) and prenatal screening for genetic disorders would also been banned. Under the bill, ARTs can only be provided if the couple is clinically infertile. Doctors will be able to 'conscientiously object' to providing ART services.

The bill also proposes that existing IVF embryos in frozen storage in Italy will be put up 'for adoption' if unclaimed, and storage facilities will then be closed. Violations of the new legislation will be severely punished, carrying jail sentences of between 10 and 20 years for scientists involved in cloning or the manipulation of human embryos. Cloning will also be subject to a one million Euro fine. Doctors who use donated gametes in treatment will be fined up to 600,000 Euros and those providing ARTs for single women or same-sex couples could be fined up to €300,000. The bill will now have to get final approval from the lower house of parliament before it becomes law, although it is thought that the text will essentially remain the same.

Critics of the bill, including many liberal and female members of the Italian parliament, have said that it is too restrictive, especially in comparison with other European countries, and it places women's health at risk. 'It is truly an awful law', said Senator Gavino Angius, from the Democratic left. Italian scientists have called it 'unacceptable and immoral'. 'Under this insane new law, we will be obliged to implant a defective embryo in the womb', said Nino Guglielmino, a doctor specialising in PGD. Arne Sunde, head of the European Society of Human Reproduction (ESHRE), said the new law would be 'disastrous'. 'Clinical practice in Italy will become less efficient and will have an increased frequency of negative side effects, such as multiple pregnancies', he added.

Abortions could be next target as Italy restricts test tube babies
The Independent |  13 December 2003
Italian Debate on Fertility Bill Raises Issue of Church Influence
Yahoo Daily News |  11 December 2003
Italy approves embryo law
The Scientist |  12 December 2003
Italy bans donor sperm and eggs
BBC News Online |  11 December 2003
14 December 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A group of Italian scientists have lost an appeal to challenge a research funding call that excludes embryonic stem celln (ES cell) research even though the technique is lawful in the country, Nature reports. The Italian health ministry put together an expert committee to produce a set of proposals to attract funding, after the previous stem cell research fund was marred in controversy following allegations that funds were being distributed in a non-transparent and arbitrary manner. ..
5 June 2005 - by Dr Mauro Costa 
The new Italian law regulating assisted reproduction technology restricts the provision of fertility treatments to 'stable heterosexual couples' who are shown to be clinically infertile. The law, passed in 2004, states that no more than three oocytes (eggs) can be fertilised in an IVF cycle, and that all embryos obtained...
9 May 2005 - by BioNews 
Monica Belluci, the Italian actress who played Mary Magdalane in 'The Passion of the Christ', has told newspapers that she strongly supports a 'yes' vote in next month's referendum on Italy's tough fertility laws. The referendum, set for 12 and 13 June, was approved by Italy's Constitutional Court last year...
11 April 2005 - by BioNews 
A public referendum on Italy's controversial assisted reproduction laws will be held on 12 June, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu announced last week. The ballot was approved by Italy's highest court last year after the country's Radical Party collected the 500,000 signatures necessary to call for a referendum. However, the public...
17 January 2005 - by BioNews 
Italy's highest court has approved a series of referendums on whether parts of its controversial new fertility law should be overhauled. However, the constitutional court rejected calls for a referendum on completely scrapping the law, instead allowing a public vote on some of its elements. These will include rules limiting...
8 December 2003 - by BioNews 
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...
17 June 2002 - by BioNews 
Following a 'long and controversial debate', the Italian Government has approved a draft law stating, among other things, that people who use assisted reproduction technologies in Italy will not be allowed to use donor sperm, eggs or embryos, and that embryo research will be prohibited. Embryos will only be able...
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