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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 08:46 GMT
Italy fertility treatment curbed
Parents will have to prove "stable relationship" to apply for IVF treatment
A new law making it more difficult for couples to get fertility treatment in Italy has come into effect.

The legislation restricts treatment to stable couples and gives a fertilised egg the same rights as a citizen.

Sperm donations, frozen embryos, and surrogate motherhood are now banned. Only infertile couples can apply for artificial insemination.

The law - one of the most restrictive in Europe - has drawn support and criticism from across party lines.

BBC health correspondent Karen Allen says it is widely seen as a Catholic backlash against Italy's reputation for producing a handful of maverick fertility experts.

Italian doctors recently helped a 63-year-old woman to conceive, and claim they will be able to clone the first human being.

Keeping tabs

Under the new law infertile couples can only get treatment at government-approved centres, and have to prove that they are married or in a stable relationship.

Clinics will also be restricted to producing three embryos per couple. All must be implanted simultaneously.

Critics say the legislation reduces the chances of conception, and could increase the number of multiple births.

Our correspondent says a number of Italian fertility clinics are planning to relocate to neighbouring countries, adding to a trend towards fertility tourism.

The Italian government says it is keeping the situation under review, and if success rates from IVF treatment fall significantly it may reconsider the law.

Its supporters say the abuse of fertility treatment needed to be curbed, and the rights of embryos protected.

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