Aree Terapeutiche

Scientific progress and pregnancy: Law 40 on ART turns twenty

Born to give birth, today Law 40 on Assisted Reproductive Technology has turned twenty.

On February 19, 2004 – its date of publication in the Italian Gazzetta Ufficiale (“Official Journal”) – the law ratified a significant step forward for the entire community. Starting from article 1:

In order to facilitate the solution of reproductive issues deriving from human sterility or infertility, the use of Assisted Reproductive Technology is permitted, under the conditions and in the manner provided for by this law, which ensures the rights of all those involved, including the conceived child”.

Since then, also thanks to the experience acquired in recent years and to scientific research, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) – which is based on a series of procedures aimed at promoting conception in couples who cannot conceive naturally, or who have a low probability of doing so – has gradually established itself as a valuable option.

Data speaks clearly. Despite not having an easy life during these twenty years – it was in fact modified by several rulings of the Constitutional Court – the law allowed 217,000 children to be born in Italy: the equivalent of cities like Brescia, Modena or Cagliari.

Over the years, regulatory changes addressed crucial matters regarding access to ART techniques, prohibitions, subjective requirements and other relevant issues, but today the battle for life – fought inside and outside the chambers of politics and the court halls – seems to have also conquered statistical robustness.

Indeed, as highlighted by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (“National Institute of Health”), assisted reproduction activities have almost doubled over the years, from 63,585 treatments in 2005 to 109,755 in 2022.

And that’s not all. As evidence of the improvement of techniques and, more generally, of the experience accumulated by clinicians, the percentage of children born alive over the general population, which in 2005 was 1.22%, stood at 4.25% in 2022.

Summing up, many steps forward (and even sideways…) have been made in these twenty years, but there are still barriers to be broken down. Two above all: the fate of the so-called “orphan embryos” and the obstacles to heterologous fertilisation, with gametes external to the couple.

Going beyond treatment, placing the person at the centre, creating bridges with the community, conceiving new lives and new ambitions. The anniversary of Law 40 also draws attention to the on-going involvement of IBSA Italy, which has always stood out for its commitment to scientific research, consistently pursuing excellence in the field of reproductive health, undertaking to improve available therapies, but also supporting doctors and couples along the complex – and sometimes tortuous – ART procedure.