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Tough Italian fertility treatment bill slammed


February 12, 2004

ROME — Legislation imposing strict rules on fertility treatments in Italy was being slammed by experts and liberals Wednesday amid concerns that it may prompt many couples to seek medical assistance abroad.

The bill, which received its final approval in parliament late on Tuesday, limits treatment to heterosexual couples of childbearing age who live together.

It forbids egg or sperm donation, the use of surrogate mothers and the freezing of embryos for use at a later date.

It also rules out treatment for single, gay and elderly women and states that no more than three embryos can be created at one time and all three must be implanted in a woman's womb.

All forms of experimentation on embryos, including cloning, are forbidden.

Advocates say the bill puts an end to a legislative vacuum that has lasted for more than 20 years, prompting observers to describe Italy as "the Far West of fertility treatment".

"This is a victory for the natural conception of life," said Cesare Cursi, a Health Ministry under-secretary.

The bill was also welcomed by members of the Roman Catholic Church while opposition lawmakers said they were consider proposing a referendum seeking to repeal it.

Critics described the bill as one of the strictest in Europe and argued that it would limit the chances of success, prompting many couples to seek treatment abroad.

"This (bill) is a disaster. It makes me want to change job," Elisabetta Chelo, head of a fertility treatment centre in Milan, told Il Corriere della Sera.

"These limitations will reduce the chances of success by a third. Many couples will give up while the rich will go abroad," Chelo added.

Marco and his 30-year-old wife Enza told the Turin-based daily La Stampa they have been seeking treatment for seven years.

The couple said they would make one final attempt in Italy, before the bill is signed into law by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

"If even this final attempt fails, I'll go abroad. I am studying the situation in Britain and Spain, where I am told procedures are simpler," Enza told La Stampa.

The bill, which imposes tough sanctions on offenders, will affect an estimated 50,000 infertile couples in Italy.

A 38-year-old woman described by Il Corriere with the pseudonym of Valeria said she was already beginning to put aside enough money to obtain treatment abroad.

"We'll need four or five thousand euros for treatment plus the money for the trip," Valeria said. – Sapa-dpa


Related stories
Italian senate passes controversial fertility bill [12/12/2003]

 

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