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Costa Rica’s public health system welcomes first IVF baby

April 19, 2020

A baby girl named Isabel Lucía is the first baby born as the result of an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure in Costa Rica’s public healthcare system.

Isabel was born at 8:50 p.m. on Saturday night at Adolfo Carit Eva Women’s Hospital in San José. Her birth is a milestone that follows years of struggles to legalize IVF and offer it within the Costa Rica Social Security System (CCSS, or Caja). 

Keilyn Molina and Enrique Rodriguez, Isabel’s parents, were among the first to receive IVF treatment at the Caja’s High Complexity Reproductive Medicine Unit that was inaugurated last year. 

“Doña Keilyn and Don Enrique, an entire nation wishes you much happiness and may God protect all three,” said CCSS president Román Macaya. 

As of February, the High Complexity Reproductive Medicine Unit has produced 13 pregnancies and has achieved a 53% pregnancy rate, according to official data. 

“In the midst of so much anguish that is being experienced worldwide and in our country, Isabel’s birth is a light, a hope,” said Dr. Ileana Azofeifa, director of the Women’s Hospital. 

A milestone years in the making

IVF was outlawed in Costa Rica in March 2000 by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV.

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.

President Luis Guillermo Solís signed an executive decree to reinstate IVF in 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 private clinics, and the first baby born as the result of the fertilization process arrived in March 2017.

But the wait for public access to IVF in Costa Rica continued. For many couples, costs were too high to pursue IVF at the country’s private clinics.

Finally, construction began on the High Complexity Reproductive Medicine Unit in June 2018, and it was inaugurated in July 2019 — the product of an $8.5 million investment.

At its full capacity, the new clinic will be able to perform up to 178 procedures per year, CCSS says.

“This is one of the most important social achievements,” said Miguel Yamuni, who along his wife, Ileana Henchoz, sued Costa Rica for access to IVF.

Finally, Saturday night, baby Isabel made history.

“She is the light of our lives,” her father said. “[She’s] the love that blossomed of my wife and myself, many years that we were waiting and we believed that we were going to have. And now here we have her.” 

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