There were 5,428 successful cases of medically-assisted procreation in Italy last year, according to data published by the Istituto Superiore della Sanit (National Institute for Health). Some 33,000 couples joined assisted procreation programmes for treatments like in-vitro fertilization and intra-uterine insemination at clinics that belong to Italys network of Centri di aiuto alla vita (Pro-life health centres). However, the actual number of these centres dropped to 301, from 322 in 2003, possibly reflecting the adoption of a law in 2004 that bans the use of donor sperm or eggs, surrogate mothering and, in particular, embryo freezing, as forms of medically-assisted procreation. The law, which also outlaws embryo screening for abnormalities or genetic disorders, and embryo experimentation, has been challenged by critics in the Italian parliament. A referendum seeking to overturn the law is due to take place on 12-13 June this year and is opposed by an alliance of Catholic pro-life groups. Opponents of the legislation say it is a step backwards both for infertile couples and for scientific progress.
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