- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2004

ROME (AP) — Italy’s parliament has given final approval to tough new rules restricting fertility treatments to heterosexual couples who live together and are of childbearing age.

The law, which will go into effect once the president signs it, also bars egg or sperm donation, the use of surrogate mothers and treatment for homosexuals, single people and elderly women.

It forbids freezing embryos for use at a later date — including after a spouse has died — and says that no more than three embryos can be created at one time and that all must be implanted in a woman’s womb.

The bill was passed late Tuesday in the Chamber of Deputies 277-222, with three deputies abstaining. The Senate had approved it in December.

Two women from a Communist Party wore white masks to protest as their colleagues voted.

The legislation also outlaws experiments on embryos, such as cloning or tinkering with their genetic makeup.

It imposes tough sanctions: 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, according to news reports.

The law was criticized bitterly by members of the center-left opposition, as well as some female lawmakers and the country’s largest homosexual rights group.

Until now, fertility treatment in Italy largely has been unregulated, with couples, including women in their 60s, flocking to Italy from abroad to take advantage of the vacuum in such areas as upper-age limits for recipients of donated eggs.

For 20 years, the fierce resistance of Roman Catholic legislators to any compromise had prevented Parliament from passing a law regulating fertility treatment.

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