A chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday that Italy’s ban on testing IVF-created embryos for genetic defects violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Italian law permits IVF in limited circumstances, but forbids pre-implantation testing of embryos; on the other hand, Italian law allows women to abort fetuses conceived through natural reproduction if the fetuses  have certain diseases, for example, cystic fibrosis. In the case before the chamber, an Italian couple who were healthy carriers of cystic fibrosis wished to conceive through IVF and to have all embryos tested for the disease before implantation. The chamber ruled that the Italian ban violated article 8’s grant of a right to respect for private and family life. The chamber rejected Italy’s argument that the ban was  justified, among other reasons, to avoid the risk of eugenic abuses. This was a legitimate aim, the chamber said, but the ban on pre-implantation testing seemed “disproportionate,” given that Italy allowed women to abort naturally-conceived fetuses that showed signs of the disease. In effect, Italy was requiring parents in the applicants’ position to conceive through natural means but then abort a fetus that showed signs of cystic fibrosis, a choice that would bring the parents only more anxiety and suffering. Italy’s IVF law is one of Europe’s most restrictive, a result, in part, of the influence of the Catholic Church. Italy has three months to appeal the chamber decision. The case is Costa and Pavan v. Italy (ECtHR, Aug. 28, 2012), available here (follow the link for the PDF).

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