In the last year to 18 months the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR, pictured) had handed down several excellent decisions. The most famous is the Lautsi judgement in which it ruled that Italy could place crucifixes on the walls of state classrooms.

In another, it ruled that a prohibition on same-sex marriage did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights, and this week it ruled that a ban on the use of donor sperm or eggs does not violate the Convention.

Two Austrian couples had taken their Government to court because Austria bans the use of donated eggs. A lower chamber of the ECHR had ruled in their favour saying that the Austrian law violated Article 8 of Convention which guarantees the right of people to a private and family life, and Article 12 which guarantees the right to found a family.

The Grand Chamber has now overruled the lower chamber and has found that Austria, and other countries that are signatories to the convention have a right to ban the use of donor sperm, donor eggs or both and therefore Austria is not in breach of Article 8 and 12.

The court left open a door to a revision of this ruling in the future, however, in that it allowed that there might develop a new consensus among the signatory nations in favour of the use of donated gametes. No such consensus exists at this point on the matter.

Austria, Germany and Italy, among other countries, ban the use of donated eggs because they believe it is wrong to split motherhood between a biological mother (that is a surrogate mother), a genetic mother (that is the egg donor), and even a social mother (that is someone who is neither the surrogate mother nor the genetic mother but who raises the child)…