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Italy moves to ban human cloning and hired wombs

Italy, once dubbed the "Wild West" of artificial insemination, has drawn up a draft law to ban "granny mums" and surrogate motherhood along with human cloning.

While Italian doctors already face limits on inducing pregnancies imposed by their own association after a series of high-profile scandals, Roman Catholic Italy is one of the few European countries to lack any legal framework.Surrogate motherhood, so-called "wombs for hire," would be outlawed as would the artificial impregnation of single women.

Artificial insemination would be permitted in married women, but only up to the age of 50 or possibly 52. The exact limit will be fixed in the final text when it goes before parliament.

The law would ban any form of human cloning.

Insemination by using sperm other than that of the husband or the implantation of ovaries from a donor woman would be permitted only in special circumstances.

A special parliamentary committee has finished work on the draft text, which is expected to be presented to political parties next week.

Doctors brought in new guidelines three years ago after a 62-year-old woman became the world's oldest mother when she gave birth to a boy.

A donor's eggs, fertilized by her husband's sperm, had been implanted in her uterus by an Italian gynecologist.

But without the force of law to back up the restrictions, the new code of conduct is open to constitutional challenge.

"The law will bring us into line with Europe and put an end to what is a potentially explosive situation," Health Ministry spokeswoman Chiara Rinaldini said Friday.

The committee's president, Marida Bolognesi, was quoted by La Repubblica newspaper on Friday as saying that she hoped the legislation could be passed by the end of the year.

The law follows closely the rules enforced by the national medical association, which has the power to suspend or expel doctors that infringe them, effectively barring them from practising medicine.