Italy's lawmakers spark anger by backing new law making surrogacy a ‘universal crime’

Author thumbnail
AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Italy's lawmakers spark anger by backing new law making surrogacy a ‘universal crime’
People hold a rainbow flag at Milan Pride on June 24, 2023. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Italian lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill to extend the country's ban on surrogacy to couples who seek it abroad, despite warnings the move was unconstitutional and harmful to children's rights.


The bill, which was approved by the lower house of parliament and now heads to the Senate, would make Italian citizens who seek surrogacy in other countries liable for prosecution on their return to Italy.

Surrogacy is already illegal in Italy, while IVF is only available for heterosexual couples.

Extending the ban to include surrogacy anywhere in the world was a flagship policy of the far-right Brothers of Italy party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the self-described "Christian mother" who won September elections on a campaign of nationalism and traditional family values.

Brothers of Italy MP Elisabetta Gardini on Wednesday condemned surrogacy as a "uterus for rent" that "outrages the dignity of women and tramples on the rights of children".

Under 2004 legislation, anyone involved in surrogacy in Italy could face three months to two years in jail and a fine ranging from 600,000 euros to one million euros.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

Critics said extending the ban to people using surrogates abroad was impractical and unconstitutional, and accused Meloni's right-wing coalition of political posturing.

Stefania Ascari of the opposition Five Star Movement called it a "huge legal mess" which was "above all hugely harmful to the rights of minors" who might arrive in Italy to see their parents arrested.

'State homophobia'

Until now, Italians who can afford it have been able to travel to countries where surrogacy is allowed, such as the United States or Canada.

Media reports suggest the vast majority are heterosexual couples who cannot have children themselves.


However, the new proposal has sparked alarm among LGBTQ activists who have been warning of moves to erode civil rights since Meloni took office in October.

Ahead of the debate, a few hundred people gathered on Tuesday evening in front of Rome's Pantheon to protest the bill, many waving rainbow flags.

Among them was Mario Colamarino, 32, a gay man who said he would one day like to have his own children, who called the anti-surrogacy bill "a pretext, a state homophobia against us".

"Instead of dealing with the climate... fires, serious problems, gas prices, the government sees fit to deal with these things, an issue that concerns few people," he told AFP.

A woman wears a t-shirt reading "It’s love that creates a family" at a demonstration by gay rights and civil society groups in Milan on March 18th, 2023, against moves by Italy's right-wing government to restrict the rights of same-sex parents. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Fabrizio LaPaglia, 60, a gay man with children from an earlier marriage with a woman, said he was at the protest to support all those seeking the right to surrogacy, whether homosexual or straight.

"This government is strongly supported by pro-life associations, they are fundamentalists who want to make decisions about a woman's body and the LGBT community," LaPaglia said.

Pre-election speeches by Meloni often included her view that a child should only be raised by heterosexual parents. She also hit out against “gender ideology” and “LGBT lobbies”.


Legal limbo

The issue is part of a wider unsolved problem in Italy, which lacks a law to recognise the children of same-sex couples.

That leaves them in legal limbo with only the biological parent registered on their birth certificates, forcing the other parent to embark on the lengthy and costly process of adoption.

In the absence of clear policy, some cities, including Milan, Turin and Padua, had been  registering the children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy.

But the government put pressure on local councils to stop with a directive in March, and some parents' names have since been eliminated from city registers - a distressing move which also creates bureaucratic problems for the excluded parent.

READ ALSO: Italian prosecutor demands cancellation of birth certificates for 33 children

Civil unions have been allowed in Italy since 2016 but same-sex couples cannot marry, or adopt.

Medically assisted reproduction - in which a donated egg or sperm is used - is legal for heterosexual couples in Italy but not for same-sex couples or single women.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also