Italian Parliament Passes Restrictive IVF Law

Unlike Canadian bill, the Italian law will effectively restrict many morally offensive practices
Thu Feb 12, 2004 - 12:15 pm EST

ROME, February 12, 2004 ( - Italian IVF legislation has passed the second to last stage before being signed into law by the president. The bill, which has been working its way through the Italian legislative process since June 2002, has pleased pro-life opponents of artificial pro-creation with its restrictions.

The law will prohibit pre-implantation eugenic screening of embryos, and the freezing, cloning of or experimentation on human embryos. While it does not go far enough in putting a complete stop to in vitro fertilization, it limits the harm by restricting the practice which, up to now, has remained completely unregulated in Italy, as it has in most countries. Unlike the Canadian proposed legislation, it appears that the Italian law will effectively restrict many morally offensive practices.

The legislation was approved by the Italian Senate in December 2003 and was at that time criticized by the Vatican for allowing in vitro fertilization to continue. Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that the law "does not reflect Catholic morality," Bishop Sgreccia, however, conceded that it could be praised for its real restrictions on the some of the more morally and socially dangerous practices like embryo freezing and the use of "donor" sperm and oocytes.

The law will impose fines of $363,000 to $726,000 for using donors, and 10- to 20-year jail terms and fines up to $1.21 million for doctors who try to clone humans. The bill was passed in the Chamber of Deputies late Tuesday 277-222, with three deputies abstaining.

Thus far, no detailed analysis of the Italian legislation is available to see if it suffers from the same type of flaws in wording and definitions that have rendered useless many other bills purporting to ban human cloning. The Canadian legislation, (formerly Bill C-13) also claims to ban cloning but upon close examination was found to be completely toothless because of errors in definitions. The bills claiming to prohibit cloning in the US, such as the Weldon-Brownback bill, also suffer from the same deficiencies in language, as do many in Europe.

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