Pope Backs Catholic Campaign Against Assisted Fertility in Italy

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 30, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pope Backs Catholic Campaign Against Assisted Fertility in Italy

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 30, 2005

The Vatican (LifeNews.com) — Pope Benedict XVI has backed a campaign by Italy’s Catholic Church to oppose repealing an assisted fertility law that supports say reigns in runaway research in the reproductive technologies field.

The need for the law came when a 62 year-old woman who became pregnant via artificial insemination. The fertility specialist responsible for that feat has already stated he wants to be the first researcher to clone a human being.

The pope commended Italian Catholic officials for trying to "enlighten the choices of Catholics."

The Pope said it was important for the church to urge Catholics in the European country to protect human life.

According to a Reuters report, Pope Benedict told the church leaders he was close to the bishops "in word and prayer" and said their stand on the vote made them "truly good pastors."

The Catholic Church wants Italians to boycott the vote because a referendum on repealing the law that doesn’t draw 50 percent of the country’s voters is not valid and the law would stand.

"Life cannot be put to a vote — choose not to vote," a poster from the Catholic Church reads.

Doctors are 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, preventing the practice of genetic selection.

A May 2004 ruling by a Sicilian judge upheld the law’s requirement requiring that all three artificially inseminated embryos must be transplanted, untested, into a woman who had a genetic disorder.

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.

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.

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.