Italy's in-Vitro Fertilization Legislation Not Morally Licit, Says Vatican

Bill Far From Perfect, Warns Bishop Sgreccia

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ROME, DEC. 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The legislation approved by the Italian Senate allowing for in vitro fertilization is not licit from the standpoint of Catholic morality, says a Vatican official.



Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, made that assessment about the Law on Artificial Insemination approved by the Senate in a 169-92 vote last Thursday.

The legislation would prohibit recourse to heterologous fertilization, which involves gametes from a third party. The legislation would limit access to IVF techniques to older, heterosexual couples, who are married or in a stable relationship, and of a potentially fertile age.

The legislation would prohibit preventive genetic tests, and the freezing, cloning of or experimentation on human embryos. Doctors who ignore these restrictions would face severe sanctions.

Because of the restrictions, the norm has been labeled "Catholic" by many critics -- "a first mistake that must be clarified" because the law "does not reflect Catholic morality," Bishop Sgreccia told Vatican Radio.

"Everyone knows -- and it is good to repeat it -- that for the Catholic view of life and procreation," the child must be conceived "within a conjugal act of love," he explained. "A law that allows conception in a test tube is never considered licit."

He noted that some Catholics and non-Catholics alike have promoted the legislation.

"They have worked as citizens concerned by the damages that can come, not only from the 'Wild West' situation which existed until today, but by artificial procreation in its various technologies, which increasingly multiply," the bishop added.

He noted that the legislation at least tries to avoid the freezing of embryos, an act that subjects human creatures to a "hell of ice."

Such a fate is a "work of heartless utilitarianism, to make these creatures victims of experimentation, in any event, destined to suppression," Bishop Sgreccia said.

The new law limits "the possibilities of artificial procreation at least within the family, in such a way that the child that is born can recognize a father and a mother."

This is "a very important advantage for education, for identity, for the psychological and moral growth of the child," he noted.

"What has been achieved is no joke," he said. Yet, "we cannot say that the law is in keeping with Catholic morality, or that it is perfect in all its points."