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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 15:58 GMT
Italians to vote on fertility law
A baby
Critics say the restrictions reduce the chances of conception
Italy's Constitutional Court has approved a series of referendums on easing the country's sweeping restrictions on fertility treatment.

The court rejected a proposal, however, for a referendum aimed at scrapping the new legislation altogether.

The law, brought in last March after intense lobbying by some Roman Catholic groups, limits treatments to "stable" couples and bans certain processes.

Critics have argued the restrictions reduce the chances of conception.

Italians will now have the chance to vote in national referendums on whether certain elements of the legislation - some of the most restrictive in Europe - are overturned.

Under the law:

  • Artificial insemination is limited to heterosexuals of childbearing age who are married or can prove they are in a stable relationship

  • No screening or freezing of pre-implanted embryos is allowed

  • No sperm or egg donation and no surrogacy or embryo research are permitted

The legislation was widely seen as a Catholic backlash against Italy's reputation for producing a handful of maverick fertility experts.

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

Fertility clinics elsewhere in Europe reported an increase in Italian patients in the months after the legislation came into force, as people travelled abroad to seek donor treatments banned in Italy.

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