BERLIN, Germany, July 11, 2011 ( – A controversial form of “pre-implantation” embryonic testing for genetic disorders was approved by German parliament last Thursday.  Members of Parliament voted 326-260 in favor of the bill, with eight MPs abstaining.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) extracts up to two cells from a human embryo obtained through in vitro fertilization for testing for severe genetic disorders that could result in stillbirth or miscarriage. Such testing is a highly sensitive subject in Germany, where the memory of the atrocities committed in the name of eugenics under the Nazis remains fresh in the national consciousness.

The testing will only be permitted in cases where one or both of the parents have a history of serious genetic illness, and only after their case has been approved by an ethics panel. The testing is expected to be used in up to a few hundred cases yearly, according to AFP.

The German parliament took up the debate after a federal court ruled last year in favor of the testing.  Many MPs expressed concern that the procedure would be used to obtain “designer babies.”

“Parents should not have to apologize if they do not have a so-called perfect baby,” said Deputy Wolfgang Zoeller of the conservative Christian Social Union.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the chairman of the Episcopal Conference, called the law “a violation of the principle of respecting human dignity.”

Wolfgang Thierse, of the opposition Social Democrats, also said the screening would “violate a person’s right to life.”

IVF critics point out that while the procedure produces its “miracle babies,” it is only through a process that results in the death of many human embryos.

Additionally, there are many concerns about the long-term health complications for IVF babies. Studies in the UK in recent years revealed that children conceived through IVF suffer from nearly twice as many health problems as those conceived naturally.  Evidence also exists that IVF is more likely to cause birth defects and genetic abnormalities.