Limits of artificial insemination

The German Bishops’ Conference is very pleased with the recent Strasbourg court ruling: The court has given a clear rejection to "the commercialization and instrumentalization of human life," says Archbishop Zollitsch. The European Court of Human Rights had previously ruled that the Austrian ban on sperm and egg donation for artificial insemination does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

Austria had not exceeded its margin of appreciation either with regard to the ban on egg cell donations for the purpose of artificial insemination or with regard to the ban on sperm donations for in vitro fertilization. This means that European countries will continue to have the option of banning sperm and egg donations for the purpose of fertilization in a test tube.

Two couples from Austria, who are unable to have children, had filed a lawsuit. In one case, an egg donation, in the other a sperm donation from a third person would have been necessary to make artificial insemination possible. Austrian law, however, allows artificial insemination only with sperm and eggs of spouses or partners in a stable community. The plaintiffs considered this to be a violation of the right to family life and a prohibited discrimination.

Bishops: "The ruling puts the well-being of the child in the foreground"
The judges stressed that the Austrian legislature had not completely ruled out artificial insemination because it allowed certain methods. Although there was a clear trend in the member states of the Council of Europe to allow germ cell donations for the purpose of in vitro fertilization. However, this does not narrow the scope of judgment of individual states, the judgment states. The Austrian legislature had been guided in its ban above all by the goal of upholding the principle of civil law that the identity of the mother is always certain

"The judgment puts the welfare of the child in the foreground. It thus prevents a dissolution of the integrity of the family by decoupling the identity of mother and child," commented the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, on Thursday in Bonn the judgment. The decision of the European Court of Human Rights will strengthen the protection of human dignity. The judges had sent a "clear signal against a purpose of the human being".

In April 2010, the simple chamber of the Strasbourg Court had still ruled that there was a violation of human rights in both cases. However, the Austrian government protested against this decision. The dossier was then referred to the Grand Chamber. No further appeal possible, the verdict is legally binding.

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