ACCESS TO MEDICAL-ASSISTED REPRODUCTION AND PGD IN ITALIAN LAW: A DEADLY BLOW TO AN ILLIBERAL STATUTE? COMMENTARY TO THE EUROPEAN COURT ON HUMAN RIGHTS'S DECISION COSTA AND PAVAN V ITALY (ECtHR, 28 August 2012, App. 54270/2010)

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Abstract

This article provides an account of the European Court on Human Rights' Second Section decision in the case Costa and Pavan v Italy. The judgment found that the Italian Statute on Assisted Reproduction (Law 40/2004), and particularly its prohibition to use in vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to prevent the birth of children affected by genetically transmissible conditions, breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In fact, the statute in question permits only infertile people to access medically assisted reproduction techniques and forbids PGD and embryo selection. The Court regarded that the rationale of these prohibitions—identified by the Italian Government with the need to prevent eugenic practices as well as to protect the health of the unborn and of the woman—was at odds with the fact that Italian law allows pre-natal screening and therapeutic abortions in case foetal abnormalities are diagnosed. In order to clarify the decision's significance, the paper goes on to analyse the rationale of Law 40/2004 in the Italian legal and political context. Emphasis is placed on the fact that this statute is extremely controversial at domestic level, because many of its provisions—including those considered by the Strasbourg Court—are inherently contradictory and contrast with the settled constitutional principles on abortion, as many domestic authorities highlighted. In this context, should the commented decision be confirmed by the Grand Chamber, it may provide a basis to bring consistency back to the Italian regulation of assisted reproduction. Finally, the paper considers the appeal lodged by the Italian Government to the Grand Chamber, and in particular the contention that the European Court had failed to respect Italy's margin of appreciation. In this regard, it is argued that, under Law 40/2004, individuals face illogical and discriminatory restrictions to their right to private and family life and that therefore, even if an outright violation of Article 8 ECHR could not be found, there appears to be at least a breach of Article 8 in conjunction with Article 14 ECHR.

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