Italian Pro-Life movement defends three
While the Italian Parliament continues to debate the law on
artificial insemination, a new case has caught the country's public
attention given the legal void on the matter. Through an urgent
procedure at the beginning of April this year, a woman asked a judge in
Bologna to allow the implantation of three frozen embryos produced by
artificial insemination with her husband. Now she and her husband are in
the process of being divorced, and the biological father is requesting
the destruction of the embryos, while the woman wants the unborn
children to live.
The real problem is to know if these embryos are considered
"property," like a house or a car, when it comes to divorce
proceedings, or if the law is to consider each of them as an individual
to be protected.
The lack of legal definition in Italy is due to the fact that a bill
addressing these and similar cases is yet to be approved. Given this
situation, the Bologna Pro-Life Movement has taken matters in hand and
established itself in the legal defence of the three embryos, assuming
the responsibility to safeguard them. They presented a
technical-juridical memorandum on April 18 to the judge, on the
defenceless position of the frozen embryos.
The movement supports the woman, who is requesting implantation in
order to give the unborn children a chance to survive. In the memorandum
presented to the judge, the movement states that the case is identical
to one that took place in Tennessee in 1989, when the judge assigned the
embryos to the woman, in keeping with their right to life. The
well-known geneticist Jerome Lejeune was called to testify. His
statements were later published in a volume entitled "The Embryo. A
Sign of Contradiction."
According to the pro-life memorandum, an embryo can also be
classified as a "child," as it can be acknowledged by the
biological parents who, from the moment the "in vitro"
fertilisation takes place, can give it a name. Because of the paradoxes
resulting from the new situations created by artificial insemination, if
the Bologna woman were not married, or had not generated the embryos
with the husband's semen, she could have gone to the civil registry and
declared the embryos as her children, giving them her surname
immediately and also individual names. But since they have a father, and
this is the paradox, the embryos are reduced to the category of mere
property, things being disputed and, therefore, easy to discard.
The memorandum refers to the opinion of the National Bio-Ethics
Committee, according to which, from the moment of conception each human
being must be treated as a person. It also refers to the jurisprudence
of the Constitutional Court, which affirms the right to life of the
conceived. It also refers to article 1 of law 194 on abortion that
obliges the Italian Republic to safeguard human life "from its
If the embryo is already a child, the father's right to choose cannot
be admitted. The father does not have the right but the duty to
guarantee the child's life, as established in articles 30 of the
Constitution and 147 of the Civil Code. The technical-juridical
memorandum of the Pro-Life Movement states that, according to
constitutional jurisprudence, the state of need that makes abortion
licit cannot be applied to the case being examined.
"To whom should the frozen embryos be entrusted?" the
newspaper "Avvenire," of the Italian Episcopal Conference
queries, commenting on the case. "To the father who wants their
destruction, or to the mother who wants to give them a hope of life?
Perhaps the Bologna judge should take recourse to Solomon's solution. In
the dispute over a child, the wise biblical King was able to recognise
the real mother, who is capable of denying her own good for that of the