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Costa Rica welcomes first IVF baby after 16-year ban

March 9, 2017

A baby girl named María José is the first baby born as the result of an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure after a 16-year ban on the technique in Costa Rica.

Channel 7 Telenoticias reported that the baby was born just before 1 p.m. on Wednesday at Hospital Cima, west of San José. Her parents are a couple from the province of Heredia who had the procedure done last June.

The couple, Jenny Garbanzo and José Barana, have been together since 2007, the same year they were informed that their only option to become parents would be through an IVF procedure.

Garbanzo’s was the first of a series of pregnancies that have resulted from IVF procedures following the approval of an executive decree to reinstate IVF here last year.

Court orders

In November 2012, the San José-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered Costa Rica to lift the ban on IVF, to pass laws to regulate the procedure, and to allow its application at both public and private hospitals.

The ruling came as a response to complaints filed before the court by several infertile couples. It overturned a ruling from the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, which banned IVF in Costa Rica in 2000.

At the time, Sala IV justices stated that the procedure violated human life because of the number of fertilized eggs that are discarded during the process.

Following the Inter-American Court’s order to lift the ban, private hospitals showed interest in offering the procedure in the country. They had to wait, however, for the drafting and approval of a Health Ministry decree outlining all legal and scientific requirements, among them the certification process for private clinics.

President Luis Guillermo Solís signed an executive decree to reinstate IVF on Sept. 10, 2015. The ban officially ended in March 2016 when the IACHR ruled that the executive decree had complied with its ruling.

The first IVF procedures were applied in mid-2016 at the only two private clinics that have since been certified: Hospital Cima’s Centro Fecundar, and Fertilización In Vitro La California. The latter is directed by Gerardo Escalante, the doctor who promoted the first IVF procedures in Costa Rica during the 1990s.

At public hospitals

The IACHR ruling also ordered the Social Security System, or Caja, to make IVF procedures available at public hospitals.

Caja Executive President María del Rocío Sáenz Madrigal reported in January that the organization is in the process of opening public tenders for the construction and equipment of its Reproductive Medicine Unit.

The Caja will also open public bids to buy medicines, surgical and laboratory supplies and other required materials, Sáenz said at the time. Construction of the new fertility clinic is scheduled to begin in August 2017 next to the National Women’s Hospital, south of San José.

In February, the Caja selected the first group of specialists who will be trained abroad to perform the technique at the new clinic. Caja officials estimate that the first assisted fertilization procedures in public hospitals will be performed during the second half of 2018. At its full capacity, the new clinic will be able to perform up to 170 procedures per year, Sáenz said.

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