STRASBOURG, August 29, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The European Court of Human Rights has decreed that the Italian law prohibiting genetic “screening” of in vitro embryos “violates the right to respect for private and family life” guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court specifically noted the “incoherence” of Italian law that bans preimplantation genetic diagnosis on embryos, but allows the abortion of unborn children suspected of genetic or physical anomalies. The law, the court said, pushes couples to abort children regarded as defective.

It “only gives the plaintiffs one option, full of anxiety and suffering,” said the court. “Get pregnant naturally and then abort when a prenatal examination shows the foetus is affected”

According to the judges, Italian law on preimplantation genetic diagnosis “is inconsistent: on one side [it] deprives the applicants access to PGD and on the other authorizes them to perform therapeutic termination of pregnancy when the fetus is affected from this same disease”.

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Nichi Vendola, a homosexualist activist and far-left politician, praised the court’s decision, calling it a “wise judgment”. The Court “ tells us that we need to free Italy from an unbearable mortgage, made of obscurantism and cruelty, on the grounds of the rights of the people.”

Flavia Perina, a parliamentarian for the National Alliance, said the decision “should lead Italy to understand that the confrontation of rights can not be transformed into a religious war, because this only leads to ambiguous and messy [legal] provisions.”

The centre-right PDL, however, condemned it saying, that it is a manifestation of the “war on the embryo” being carried out by activists on the left. “I’m sure,” said former Welfare Minister Maurizio Sacconi (PDL), “that the Italian government will appeal against the judgment.”

“The defense of a state law is a must in principle and in this case also justified on the merits. Italy cannot in any way, in the absence of conscious parliamentary will, surreptitiously take the path of genetic selection,” Sacconi added.

Since 2004, Italy has had one of the most restrictive laws regarding artificial procreation of any western nation, banning pre-implantation testing, and consequent discarding, of embryos found to have genetic anomalies. As it was originally passed, the law bans cloning and requires that artificial forms of reproduction be restricted to “stable heterosexual” couples who are “clinically infertile”, and bans gamete donation, surrogacy and the provision of any artificial means of reproduction for single women or same-sex partners.

It restricts the number of embryos that can be created per attempt to three and requires that all the embryos created be implanted, banning the long-term cryogenic storage of embryos that has created legal and ethical dilemmas elsewhere. Violations carry a potential prison sentence between 10 and 20 years or fines up to one million Euros.

Pro-life analysts are warning that the court’s decision in reality has nothing to do with human rights, but is in effect a demand that the country follow the path of totally unrestricted killing of unborn children. Enzo Pennetta, writing on the website Libertà e Persona, said the court has highlighted the conflict between the abortion and IVF laws, and demanded that Italy bow to the abortion law.

“Something significant is happening here, once it is established that the two laws are inconsistent, you decide which of the two, without any explanation reflects a correct principle and what does not. In practice, what does the European Court is to determine which is to prevail over the law … ”

“In short, the Court finds that the embryo is not a person and therefore he should not be recognized as possessing human rights.

“But what is the scientific basis for this decision? There is simply none. Such statements are arbitrary have no theoretical or experimental support.”

The case came in response to a complaint by a couple whose artificially conceived child was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. It follows a previous ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court and lower court cases complaining of the law’s restrictions. The national courts ruled that restricting the number of embryos created was counter to “good clinical practice” and said the decision should be left to clinicians.

The couple, Rosetta Costa and Walter Pavan, said they were “forced to abort” their potentially disabled child in 2010. The ECHR awarded them 15,000 Euros but denied further complaints of discrimination.

Unlike a national court, the ECHR does not directly have the power to overturn Italian law, and the government has the right to appeal the decision.

Italy’s IVF law is hated by the far left that complains it is the result of “interference” by the Catholic Church. In 2005, an attempt was made to gut the law by the extreme left Radical party, which collected the 500,000 signatures needed to bring a referendum; but the plan failed when only half the necessary number of voters turned out after some bishops called for a boycott.

It is not yet known whether the EU-appointed “technocrat” government of Italy plans to appeal the decision. The ECHR, however, is unpopular in Italy, where it is widely regarded as an interfering foreign bully following a 2009 ruling in which the court ordered the removal of all crucifixes from public classrooms and offices.

The court said that crucifixes, which are required by the Italian constitution, violated the “religious freedom” of non-Catholics. That case came as the result of a complaint by one woman, a Finnish national living in Italy, who said that her son was being “exposed” to Catholicism against his will. 

The decision triggered a wave of outrage across the country and several local jurisdictions responded by erecting crucifixes in town squares and ordering schools and public offices to install them where they were missing. One town in southern Italy held a public ceremony, presided over by Communist Party politicians, erecting a large crucifix in the town’s central piazza, and declaring the right of Italy to govern its own affairs.