Test-tube son declared illegitimate

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The Independent Online
AN eight-year-old boy, conceived by artificial insemination by donor (AID) with the full consent of his mother's husband, has been declared illegitimate. A Cremona court has ruled that the husband can change his mind and disown the child. At the same time, it rejected a demand for compensation and damages by the mother, who has effectively brought him up alone for most of his life. The boy will no longer be allowed to bear the man's name.

The case, which has deeply shocked Italians, has exposed the fact that Italy lacks laws giving children conceived by AID the same rights as other children.

Luciano Anselmi, a manual worker, and his wife Laura had tried for four years to have a child when it emerged that he was sterile. He agreed that they should have a baby by artificial insemination from an anonymous donor through a fertility clinic. But a few months after the baby, Mattia, was born the couple separated.

Their long and bitter battle ended, at least for the time being, on Thursday, when the court ruled that 'there is no law in force in which . . . the consent he gave to the artificial insemination of his wife through a donor excludes the right to repudiate it . . . Current law does not envisage any legal paternity that is not the biological tie of blood.'

Also, it declared, the legal duty of married partners to remain faithful 'concerns not only sex but also procreation' - implying that artificial insemination is a form of adultery.

It rejected the argument by the wife's lawyers that the result of Mr Anselmi's consent - the birth of Mattia - was irreversible and therefore he cannot revoke it. It also rejected a request to know the name of the anonymous donor.

Mr Anselmi was delighted by the ruling. 'It always bothered me that a child that was not mine bore my name,' he said afterwards. 'He never was mine; ever since she became pregnant my wife and mother- in-law kept me out of things and always reminded me he was not mine. I could not even show him to my own family.'

'The ruling is patently iniquitous,' commented La Stampa. Even though Italian courts are obliged to stick to the precise letter of the law, Alfeo Garini, Maura Anselmi's lawyer, declared the ruling was 'disappointing and lacking in courage. The judges did not make the slightest effort to rise above the letter of the law. They paid no attention to the real situation.'

The Vatican newspaper, l'Osservatore Romano, recalled that the Catholic Church flatly opposes any kind of artificial fertilisation, but insisted that children born from such practices must be protected.

The consent given by his father to his birth gives Mattia 'the right to (his) support, solidarity and participation in his education and upbringing'.