Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Trust the Stork. Reflections on the law to regulate Assisted Reproduction in Italy.

One of the positive points, at least in theory, coming from 40/2004 is perhaps the obligation for informed consent on the part of the couple deciding to undergo the ART (Article 6), that is that two partners have to be sufficiently informed on the medical, psychological, bioethical, and financial implications of the procedure which they will face. Unfortunately, here as well, the legislators have been lax with definitions and rules not entirely shareable, such obliging doctors to outline to couples &ldquothe possibility of recourse to adoption or fostering procedures, according to the law of 4 May 1983, n. 184 and successive modifications, as an alternative to medically assisted procreation”. Even though many gynaecologists are both caring and humane, it is not right, nor indeed efficient, to place this extra work on them rather than to psychologists, sociologists, judges, childcare workers etc. Adoption and fostering are difficult decisions, with both a personal and bureaucratic journey involved, that doesn't necessarily have much to do with IVF-ET and the other techniques of assisted reproduction.

Article 6 presents another debatable aspect, in so much as it's not clear, at least in the absence of ministerial guidelines: '”the agreement of both subjects to undertake medically assisted reproductive techniques…can be revoked by either of the subjects indicated in this paragraph up until the moment of fertilisation of the oocytes”. And if the agreement or the accessibility conditions to ART change after the fertilisation, what happens to the embryo, to the woman, to the doctor involved? Article 12 foresees sanctions against the doctor that proposes ART to couples whose members don't cohabit or are both alive: but what alternatives are there for the gynaecologist who has in his care a woman who ends up dying, or becomes widow after in vitro fertilisation but prior to embryo transfer?

Another hidden clause that reveals the shallowness of this law is that which denies the mother of a child born through ART the benefit of anonymity at the moment of delivery, a right sanctioned by the President of the Republic's decree 396/2000. It's not clear how hospital staff of the institution where the woman gives birth can verify whether the birth/births are the result of ART or of a 'traditional' sexual rapport. The State will perhaps propose the keeping of a register of women who undertake ART, to distribute to maternity wards in all of Italy, perhaps with mug shots?

What still strikes me about this society of ours is how the Totti's spitting incident becomes headline news, on all TV stations, in the national and international media, in the traditional sports bars and the trendy cocktail bars, in the churchyards, the schools, and the courthouses, while this poorly made and confused law is discussed only by those working in the field, only a couple of months after coming into force. Where are the 'pasionarias' that at the time of the law on abortion protested loudly with cries of &ldquol'utero è mio e me lo gestisco io” (Editor's note:It's my uterus and I'll manage it myself)?

The Radicals under Emma Bonino and some other Secular Associations involved in this field are collecting signatures to force a referendum to repeal the law; there are however other people and associations that would prefer to change the law rather than repeal it, or others that don't believe in the referendum as an instrument, and so even though opposed to the law don't support the collection of signatures led by the Radicals.

The Italian left wing, considered by many analysts, and sometimes wrongly so, secular and reforming, did not expose itself too much, perhaps to avoid upsetting the delicate balance found between the various parties in their attempt to provide a cohesive opposition. If the law was passed by both Senate and Lower House, it was also 'thanks' to those parliamentary members of the Margherita [Editor's note: one of the main left wing parties], who openly lined up with the forces of the Church and the Conservatives who originally proposed the law.

And, on the contrary, there are a number of personalities on the fringes of the right, lined up against the law, such as Gaetano Pecorella, Margherita Boniver and Alfredo Biondi (Forza Italia), Rossana Boldi (Lega Nord), Antonio Del Pennino (Republican Senator), and Alessandra Mussolini (while she was still a member of coalition party Allianza Nazionale), although not all agree with the referendum proposed by the Radicals.

Infertile couples, Associations involved in the field, centres that practice ART, the political parties, and – why not? – Three Monkeys Online are waiting the promised guidelines, if only to have a more complete picture on the applicability of 40/2004, even though there's no doubt that this law contains articles essentially drafted from a purely Conservative-Catholic considerations, rather than scientific and turned towards the interests of society at large.

And so that's why, at the moment, the only hope for those who are unable to become pregnant is the Stork. Once at least you had the alternative to look under the cabbage leaf, but these days with GM crops and the price of vegetables that's a road I'd rather not venture down….

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