Efforts to dismantle Europe's most restrictive fertility legislation were dashed on Monday as a two-day nationwide consultation over a controversial law in Italy failed because of low voter turnout.

Although more than 80% of those who did take part in the referendum answered "Yes" to revise the much disputed law, only 25.9% of eligible citizens actually took part in the referendum—roughly half the number required for it to be legally valid.

"We lost, and we lost heavily," said Daniele Capezzone, head of Italy's Radical Party and promoter of the referendum.

Approved in 2003, "Law 40" regulates the field of reproductive technology by banning a range of activities on ethical grounds. Before it passed, Italy had been referred to as the Wild West of reproduction, where menopausal women gave birth, and embryo tourism and human cloning plans flourished.

But Law 40 banned any embryo testing for research or experimental...

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