Italian Lawmakers Enact Rules That Limit Reproductive Rights

December 12, 2003

ROME, Dec. 11 (Reuters) - Italy's Senate approved a
contentious law on reproductive rights on Thursday, banning
the use of donor sperm, eggs or surrogate mothers and
restricting assisted fertilization to "stable" heterosexual

The government welcomed the legislation as finally bringing
the realm of reproduction under the rule of law, but
critics denounced it as "medieval" and said it could be the
first step toward making abortion illegal.

The law was passed by a wide margin as some opposition
senators in this predominantly Roman Catholic country
crossed party lines to back the bill drawn up by Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition.

"This law says `Enough!' to the abuses and recognizes that
an embryo is a person and as such must be protected from
the point of conception," said Elisabetta Alberti
Casellati, a senator from Mr. Berlusconi's party, Forza

The bill has been approved by both houses of Parliament,
although it will now return to the lower house for a rubber
stamp before becoming law.

Many in Italy, which is the home of the fertility doctor
Severino Antinori, who helped a 62-year-old woman give
birth with a donated egg, felt legal restrictions were

Under the bill, only infertile couples can obtain assisted
reproduction, and they cannot use the sperm or eggs of a
donor or use a surrogate mother.

The couple must be married or provide evidence of having a
"stable" relationship.

The bill's backers say it guarantees a child's right to
know who his or her parents are and protects the embryo.

Embryos resulting from artificial insemination cannot be
frozen or used for research purposes. Doctors can only
create up to three embryos during each attempt at
insemination, and all of them must be implanted in the
potential mother's womb.

Some specialists say three times as many embryos are

"We will now be the most backward country in Europe," said
Gavino Angius, the speaker for the Democrats of the Left in
the Senate.

An opposition lawmaker, Giovanna Melandri, has called the
bill "medieval" and "hateful," and even backers of the
legislation said it could pave the way to making abortion