ROME, March 22 (Reuters) - Italy's ruling conservative majority wants to prosecute couples who go abroad to have a baby via surrogacy, according to a law that has drawn fire from critics who view it as mainly targeting gay couples.
The bill, which parliament will start debating on Thursday is part of the socially conservative agenda of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, a self-declared enemy of what she calls "gender ideology" and "the LGBT lobby".
Parenting via surrogacy is already illegal in Italy, punishable with jail terms ranging from three months to two years and fines from 600,000 euros to 1 million euros ($1.08 million).
The law in question, sponsored by Meloni's Brothers of Italy (FdI) and the League, another ruling party, would make it a crime to resort to the procedure even in countries where it is legal - such as the United States or Canada.
Alessia Crocini, head of Famiglie Arcobaleno (Rainbow Families), an association that represents same-sex parents, said on Wednesday that the reform would be "extremely difficult" to apply in practice.
"To criminalise a practice that is perfectly legal and regulated by very strict laws in countries that cannot certainly be called rogue states would be problematic in terms of international law," she said at the Foreign Press Association.
Crocini said "90%" of Italian couples who resort to surrogacy abroad are heterosexuals, but mostly do it in secret, pretending their child was born naturally, which gay couples cannot do.
After Meloni's coalition swept to power last year, LGBT leaders expressed fears about an erosion of civil rights, despite her campaign pledges not to roll back legislation on abortion and same-sex civil partnerships.
Those fears where reawakened last week, after the government ordered Milan's city council to stop registration of children from same-sex couples, a move that triggered a protest rally on Saturday.
Italy's ruling coalition faced more criticism on Monday, after FdI lawmaker Federico Mollicone said in a TV interview that "surrogacy is definitely a serious crime ... more serious than paedophilia."
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