Italy's Parliament has passed a bill which could make surrogacy a 'universal crime' if approved by the Senate.
Surrogacy has been illegal in Italy since 2004, but citizens have continued to seek surrogacy outside the country. However, the new law seeks to impose the same penalties on people who have children this way, regardless of where that takes place. The punishment is a fine of up to one million euros and/or up to two years imprisonment.
'Today is important as it puts Italy at the forefront of the defence of women and children at an international level. We hope this vote will open a global debate on this practice in order to arrive at its abolition,' said equal opportunities and family minister Eugenia Roccella, who serves in the government of Prime Minister Georgia Meloni.
Meloni has been vocal in her opposition to surrogacy, describing it as an 'inhumane practice', and also opposes same-sex parents and other non-traditional family forms. The law's author Carolina Varchi, said that 'the relationship we want to protect is the child's right to have a mom and a dad.'
A spokesman for Arcigay, Italy's largest LGBT advocacy organisation, said the bill is a 'threat to thousands of families,' and Italy's opposition party Five Star Movement stated that the policy would be 'hugely harmful to the rights of minors' due to the upset caused by seeing their parents arrested upon their return to Italy.
Same-sex couples in Italy can form civil partnerships but cannot adopt children. IVF is only available for heterosexual couples, and Meloni's government has already ordered city councils to stop registering the children of same-sex couples (see BioNews 1184). Banning international surrogacy further limits the chance for same-sex couples to have children.
Mario Colamarino, a gay man who would like to have his own children called the bill 'a state homophobia against us'.
Meloni's government has also been criticised for persuing policies primarily designed to target LGBT people, rather than bigger issues facing Italy:
'It is evident to everyone that this legal disgrace is a great weapon of mass distraction, deployed at a time when Italy is burning in the south and undergoing unprecedented storms in the north,' Alessandro Zan of the Democratic party, told the Guardian.