Italy updates IVF rules to allow access for widowed or separated women

By Thomson Reuters May 10, 2024 | 11:56 AM

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s Health Ministry has updated its guidelines on medically assisted reproduction, allowing access for women who requested the procedure with their male partner but who have since become separated or widowed.

Predominantly Roman Catholic Italy has strict rules on in vitro fertilization, or IVF, procedures. They are generally restricted to heterosexual couples, but over the years regulations have been partly watered down by judicial decisions.

The latest change, published by the ministry on Thursday, says a woman may go ahead with the implantation of an embryo even if her partner has died or their relationship has ended, if the partner had previously agreed to the procedure.

The decree was issued to comply with two court decisions.

Italy’s top appeals body, the Court of Cassation, ruled in 2019 that children born of medically assisted procreation may have as legal father the person who gave consent, even if he died before the embryo was formed.

The Constitutional Court confirmed last year the irrevocability of consent after a separation, for the sake of protecting “women’s psychophysical integrity from the negative repercussions” of interrupting the process.

Italy has a seriously declining birth rate, with the national statistics agency saying in March that births in 2023 dropped for the 15th consecutive year to 379,000, the lowest number since the country’s unification in 1861.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s conservative government has made boosting the national birth rate one of its priorities, but has so far had little success in reversing Italy’s demographic decline.

(Reporting by Matteo Negri; editing by Alvise Armellini; editing by Jonathan Oatis)