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'Yes' votes urged in Italian fertility law referendum

9 May 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 307

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 after the country's Radical Party collected more than the 500,000 necessary signatures. However, the public are only to be asked to vote on some elements of the law, including the rules limiting fertility treatment to heterosexual couples, and those governing embryo research. For the results of the referendum to be legitimated, there must be a 50 per cent turnout.

Italy's laws, said to be the most restrictive in Europe, were passed in December 2003 to counter the country's reputation for being the 'Wild West' of fertility treatments. 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 law 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. Fertility clinics across Europe have reportedly seen an increase in the numbers of Italian patients seeking treatment since the legislation came into force.

Supporters of the 'yes' vote want to repeal a number of the law's restrictions, including the prohibitions on some types of treatment and the 'stable heterosexual couples' requirement. Belluci accused the Roman Catholic Church in Italy - which has urged 'mature Catholics' to abstain form the vote, in the hope of failing to meet the 50 per cent turn out required - of interfering with the 'sacrosanct' right of Italian women to have children. 'The law creates an absurd situation', she said, adding 'politicians and priests should stay out of this'. She continued: 'When I travel, people abroad laugh at me when I describe the Italian law to them', adding 'it's a law against women which is worthy of the Inquisition'.

Meanwhile, Italy's Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the country's highest academic panel, has voted 58 to eight in favour of using frozen embryos left over from fertility treatments and stored before the law came into force, for stem cell research. It says that these embryos 'should not be lost, but used to alleviate the suffering produced by degenerative diseases'. Some Catholics have accused the Accademia of trying to influence public opinion before the referendum, rather than promoting science.

Academics back stem cell thaw
The Times Higher Educational Supplement |  6 May 2005
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Italian actress calls for 'yes' vote in fertility referendum
Yahoo Daily News |  6 May 2005
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. ..
13 June 2005 - by BioNews 
The results are in on the Italian referendum on its fertility laws. A low turnout of voters on Sunday 12 June - fewer than 19 per cent - made it doubtful that the 50 per cent turnout rate necessary would be reached, even though the polls were opened for a second day...
6 June 2005 - by BioNews 
A number of Italian scientists have gone on hunger strike in the hope of influencing a referendum that will take place at the weekend on Italy's controversial fertility laws. The referendum, which will take place on 12 and 13 June, asks whether a number of the key provisions in the...
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...
27 September 2004 - by BioNews 
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...
17 September 2004 - by BioNews 
Calls have been made for the resignation of Italian Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia, the man behind the country's restrictive fertility laws. The call comes after news that a five year old boy suffering from Cooley's anaemia had been cured by 'adult' stem cells taken from the umbilical cord of his...
8 September 2004 - by BioNews 
An Italian newspaper has reported that a hospital in Turin, Italy, gave two women undergoing fertility treatment the morning-after pill half an hour after artificial insemination took place, following a suspected sperm mix-up. One of the couples involved noticed that the sperm sample being used had the wrong man's name...
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