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Judges send restrictive reproductive law to higher court

Constitutional body asked to review ban on embryo screening

27 January, 17:23
Judges send restrictive reproductive law to higher court (ANSA) - Rome, January 27 - A lower court in Rome on Monday requested that parts of Italy's restrictive reproduction law be reviewed by the country's supreme Constitutional Court.

It specifically ordered a review of a ban contained in the bill on screening for genetic diseases.

The case before the lower court involved a couple in which the woman carried the gene for a version of muscular dystrophy, inherited from her father.

They were denied the screening they requested from a woman's health clinic in Rome, based on Italy's so-called Law 40.

Already, the law has been rejected by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2012 which said that Italy had infringed upon two provisions of its convention for the protection of human rights. Elements of the law have already been put before the Constitutional Court, to rule on access to sperm donors for "heterosexual sterile or infertile couples" who, petitioners said, were denied "the fundamental right to the full realisation of their family life" by Law 40.

The issues surrounding reproductive rights and laws is a hot political potato in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy.

Opinion polls have said that most Italians think the law is too harsh and forces too many people, at least the ones who can afford it, to resort to foreign clinics.

The bill was originally passed by a cross-party alliance of Catholics in a battle which also pitted male MPs against female MPs.

The 2003 law forbids the screening of embryos for abnormalities or genetic disorders, even for couples with a history of genetic disease, and women are denied the right to refuse implantation once their eggs have been fertilised.

As well, single parents, same-sex couples and women beyond child-bearing age are banned from using assisted fertility techniques, which are limited to sterile heterosexual couples who are married or live together.

The law also bans the use of donor sperm or eggs and forbids embryos from being frozen or used for scientific research.

It allows a maximum of three eggs to be fertilised at one time and requires them all to be transferred to the womb simultaneously.

The law slaps heavy fines for doctors and patients caught breaking it.

Doctors caught using donated sperms or eggs face fines of up to 600,000 euros and those found treating same-sex couples or singles can be fined up to 400,000 euros.

Stiffer fines and jail terms of up to 20 years are envisaged for human cloning and manipulation of human embryos.

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