Italians pursuing parenthood via surrogates abroad could face prosecution under proposed law

Italy’s lawmakers are debating a bill that would make it a crime for Italian citizens to try to become parents through a surrogate’s pregnancy abroad, even in countries where the practice is legal

Frances d'Emilio
Tuesday 20 June 2023 17:09 BST

Italy's lawmakers are debating a bill that would make it a crime for Italian citizens to try to become parents through a surrogate's pregnancy abroad, even in countries where the practice is legal.

A 2004 law already banned surrogacy within Italy. The proposed law, which would make it illegal in Italy for citizens to engage a surrogate mother in another country, would authorize prison terms of up to three years and fines of up to 1 million euros ($1.15 million) for convictions.

“We strenuously say no to the sale of children. Surrogate maternity is the most extreme form of commercialization of the body,″ lawmaker Maurizo Lupi, who heads a tiny centrist party that is a partner in Italy's coalition government, said.

Protests erupted inside the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Italian Parliament, and outside in a square during the debate that began Monday and continued Tuesday. A vote on the bill has not been scheduled.

Lawmakers opposed to the law held up placards that read, “Parents, not criminals.” Some members of the political opposition have joined the government’s side, contending that surrogacy violates the dignity of women if they are paid to carry someone else’s child.

The government of Italy's far-right premier, Giorgia Meloni, is heavily promoting the legislation. Meloni's coalition has a comfortable majority both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate, which would take up the bill next.

Although the so-called “universal ban” would apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, opponents see the law as part of an effort by Meloni's government to penalize what it deems “non-traditional” families.

"With this law, we're looking at a very heavy attack on ‘rainbow’ families and on the LGBT community,'' lawmaker Alessandro Zan, who is gay, said.

Same-sex marriages also are banned in Italy. LGBTQ+ couples have been fighting to obtain parental rights for the partner who is not the biological parent of their children, including the ability to make medical decisions and to pick a child up from school without needing a permission note.

A top court ruled last year that non-biological parents cannot automatically be listed on children's birth records. Some mayors had done that when certifying birth records from abroad. The court said non-biological parents instead needed to petition for adoption, a long legal process.

The prosecutors' office in the northern city of Padua this week ordered non-biological parents removed from the birth certificates of 33 children registered since 2017. Under the change, the children also can no longer legally use their non-biological parent's surname.

Lawmaker Chiara Appendino, who registered non-biological parents on birth certificates when she served as mayor of Turin, said the crackdown ignores the rights of children.

“While the government is blathering about absurd universal crimes, the consequences are being paid by children,'' Appendino tweeted.

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