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Referendum on Italy's fertility laws?

27 September 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 277

Italy may hold a referendum on whether its fertility laws should be overturned. The country's Radical Party have been collecting signatures and says that it is close to the required total of 500,000 signatures needed to call for the referendum. The drive to overturn the law has divided both main political parties, mainly over religious issues.

Italy's laws, said to be the most restrictive in Europe, have hardly been out of the news since they were passed last December. Before they were passed, the country had a reputation for being the 'Wild West' of fertility treatments due to its lack of restrictions, and many people travelled there to take advantage of controversial services they could not get in their own countries.

Now, the law restricts the provision of fertility treatments to 'stable heterosexual couples' who live together and are of childbearing age, and who are shown to be clinically infertile. Research using human embryos is prohibited, as well as embryo freezing, gamete donation surrogacy and the provision of any fertility treatments 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, increasing the risk of multiple births. PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) and prenatal screening for genetic disorders have also been banned.

The referendum proposal has split both Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition party and the centre-left coalition. According to a poll, 40 per cent of Italian citizens say they think the law should be made less restrictive, while only 19 per cent say that they agree with it. A spokesman for the previous centre-left government said that by passing the law, the Italian parliament has shown 'its complete ignorance of the suffering of women and men who have infertility problems'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Fertility law divides Italy as opposition grows
Reuters |  21 September 2004
Italy's radical party likely to propose referendum to overturn new fertility restrictions
Kaiser Network |  23 September 2004
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