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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Test-Tube Birth in Italy Splits Science, Religion

ROME -- Happy birthday, Elisabetta -- whenever it was, however you came into the world.


A Rome gynecologist last week announced the birth of Elisabetta two years after her mother's death -- from a frozen embryo thawed and implanted in the womb of her father's sister.


The news split the worlds of science and religion in a country that has no laws about "test-tube" births.


Threading through the theological and scientific arguments over Dr. Pasquale Bilotta's decision to grant the wish of a childless widower whose wife died in a car accident was the question of where love ends and ego begins.


The case grew cloudier this week when one of Italy's pioneers in pushing the limits of nature for motherhood publicly doubted whether Elisabetta was born in the way Bilotta said she was.


Dr. Severino Antinori, a Rome gynecologist who set a world record last summer when his 62-year-old patient gave birth to a boy conceived from her husband's sperm and a donor egg, doubted that Bilotta had the technical expertise and access to equipment for a successful pregnancy from a frozen embryo.


The case also brought a stinging condemnation from the Vatican's official newspaper.


Bilotta, who is Catholic, says he followed "my conscience and my science" in deciding to implant the embryo.


"As long as freezing of embryos is allowed, it's only right that the embryos aren't left in the freezer but are used," he said.


The July birth to a 62-year-old mother momentarily put the spotlight on Italy's lack of laws governing such procedures. But despite the outcry then, little progress has been made toward legislation in that area. A national committee on bioethics has been shaken by resignations and political infighting.


"Laws have to catch up with science," Bilotta said.