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European court rules against Italian legal restriction on in vitro fertilization

August 28, 2012

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that an Italian law restricting artificial reproduction violates the laws of prospective parents by not allowing them to screen embryos for disease before implantation.

The Italian law, enacted in 2004 after a bitter public debate, allows for in vitro fertilization but prohibits the screening of embryos. That provision of the law was challenged by a couple who, after having a child with cystic fibrosis, aborted a second child who was diagnosed in utero with the disease, and chose to pursue another pregnancy by in vitro fertilization, destroying any embryo that was found to have the same disease.

The European Court of Human Rights acknowledged that the Italian law was written to “avoid the risk of eugenic abuses.” Nevertheless the court ruled that the privacy rights of the couple trump that concern.

Italian legislators, reacting to the ruling, called for an overhaul of the Italian law on assisted reproduction. Most other European countries impose fewer restrictions on the process.


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