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Italian vote should cause British government to rethink on infertility, says CMF

Published: 14th June 2005

The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) has applauded the opposition of the Italian people to attempts to legalise embryo research and disposal - and called on the British government to rethink its position on infertility.

A referendum on relaxing fertility laws collapsed on Monday when only 24% of Italian voters cast their ballots. The low turnout (50% was necessary) was attributed both to voter apathy and calls from newly elected Pope Benedict XVI to boycott the vote on moral grounds.

Italian law as it currently stands bans egg and sperm donation, screening embryos for disease and embryo research. It also limits the number of embryos created for each treatment to three (all of which have to be implanted at the same time).

Peter Saunders, General Secretary of the CMF, said "The Italian people have given a clear signal that they do not want to go down the road of liberalising fertility laws. They recognise that embryos are the most vulnerable form of human life and as such are worthy of the utmost respect and protection. By contrast UK fertility laws are amongst the most liberal in Europe, allowing embryos to be experimented upon, destroyed, frozen and cloned.

"We urge the British government to take note and refocus its energies on addressing the causes of infertility, rather than adopting expensive unethical technologies that undermine respect for human life. Delayed childbirth, sexually transmitted infections and the falling numbers of babies available for adoption have greatly worsened the infertility crisis in the UK.

"Many couples are choosing to delay having children for career or personal reasons. A government survey last year showed, because of falling infertility with age, half of those women who put off trying for a baby until their 30s will never have one. By the age of 35, the figure rises to two in three.

"Unwise sexual choices also play a huge part. Tubal infertility is increasing, mainly as a result of sexually transmitted infections (especially chlamydia which currently affects 10% of women and is itself increasing 20% per year).

"Furthermore, the fall in the numbers of babies available for adoption adds to the demand for infertility treatments. 15,000 babies were adopted per year in the mid 1960s in the UK, but this number has now fallen to around 200. This is largely because many women, who might previously have given their babies up for adoption, now routinely choose to abort instead. The number of abortions has risen from a few thousand to 190,000 per year over the last forty years.

Saunders concluded "The Italian people have given a strong lead to all other European countries. It is time the UK in particular started seriously addressing the real causes of our own infertility crisis - sexually transmitted infections, abortion and delays in childbirth – and embracing treatments which truly respect the humanity of the human embryo."

For further information:

Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

Christian Medical Fellowship:
uniting & equipping Christian doctors & nurses
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