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Human rights court admits new IVF complaint against Costa Rica

March 1, 2016

The lawyer for six couples who sued Costa Rica more than a decade ago for banning in vitro fertilization says time is running out for his clients to become parents.

On Friday the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) admitted for review a request from the lawyer, Hubert May, to temporarily allow the couples to undergo IVF. May is arguing that the couples — who filed a complaint against Costa Rica before the regional human rights body nearly 16 years ago, in the prime of their child-bearing years — can’t wait any longer for the government to make IVF legal.

May requested that the San José-based court order Costa Rica to resume the fertility procedure under the provisions of an executive decree signed by President Luis Guillermo Solís last September. That decree was later struck down by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, on Feb. 3.

The court set a March 4 deadline for the government to respond to the complaint.

IVF impasse, despite court orders

The IACHR had already ordered the country, on Feb. 4, to allow the fertility procedure for the six couples who filed a complaint against the ban. The order followed a previous IACHR ruling from 2012 ordering the country to authorize the procedure both in public and private hospitals.

Solís signed a decree to regulate IVF on Sep. 10, 2015 in order to abide by the court’s order, but the Sala IV ruled the decree unconstitutional and annulled it. Justices at the time argued that the procedure should be regulated by law, not by presidential decree.

Following the Sala IV ruling, the government sent a draft bill to the Legislative Assembly, but its approval has since stagnated.

May said he met with officials from the Foreign Ministry and Casa Presidencial recently to discuss compliance with the ICHR order, but that “time is critical.” Due to the long legal process, several of the couples represented by May are no longer eligible to undergo the procedure due to their age. For other couples, the biological clock is ticking, “meaning they need a ruling as soon as possible or they will lose their chances of becoming parents, which is cruel and inhumane,” the lawyer stated in the petition.

May said the Sala IV should no longer have jurisdiction to decide if the decree is appropriate to comply with the ICHR ruling.

“Casa Presidencial, the Ombudsman’s Office, and all of us attorneys representing the couples agreed that the decree is a valid instrument to regulate IVF procedures,” he said.

Current sessions at the ICHR end on March 2 and will resume in April.

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