Italian Parliament Approves Very Strong Reproductive Technology Law

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 13, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Italian Parliament Approves Very Strong Reproductive Technology Law

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 13, 2004

Rome, Italy ( — Members of the Italian parliament on Tuesday approved, by a 277-222 vote, a reproductive technology law an in attempt to reign in runaway sciences that threaten human life or present ethical concerns in the world of fertility medicine.

The law bans the use of donor sperm, eggs or surrogate mothers and restricts assisted fertilization to "stable" couples. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition drew up the bill but it received support from members of all political parties.

Supporters say the bill will limit such extraordinary claims as a 62 year-old woman who became pregnant via artificial insemination and will attempt to reign in an Italian fertility specialist Severino Antinori who is trying to become the first to clone a human baby.

The law makes the cloning of embryos a crime punishable with up to 20 years in prison and a one million Euro fine, according to Reuters. Also, freezing and using human embryos in research is illegal.

Doctors may be allowed to create as many as three human embryos for couples seeking to have a child, but all three must be implanted into the woman at the same time instead of using one and freezing the rest.

Existing frozen embryos, of which there are about 24,000 in the country, would be put up for "adoption," and frozen embryo depositories would be closed.

"We have worked for years to give our country rules that would fill the void on a topic so important for thousands of people," said Olimpia Tarzia, of the centrist UDC party, told Reuters.

Opponents of the law said it was pushed for by the Vatican and could be used to make abortion illegal because it refers to "the rights of the embryo."

Tuesday’s vote was the third vote in favor of the legislation after it passed overwhelmingly on two preliminary votes. The Italian Senate passed the measure — which would be the most restrictive in Europe — in December 2003.

The measure now goes to the Italian president for his signature.