San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Human Rights Commission Hears In Vitro Arguments

An international commission based in Washington, D.C., held a public hearing this week on whether Costa Rica’s restrictions on in vitro fertilization violate human rights.

Gerardo Trejos, a lawyer who helped draft Costa Rica’s 1974 Family Code, argued before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the restrictions violate the right to privacy, the right to have a family, the right to health, and equal protection before the law.

Vanessa Videche, legal director at the Foreign Ministry, said the restrictions are justified because they protect the embryo’s right to life. State lawyers also argued the commission should not hear the case because it is still being discussed in Costa Rican courts.

In 2000, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) appeared to ban in vitro fertilization, and the country’s only in vitro clinic shut down its lab. But earlier this month, a lower court interpreted the ruling to allow in vitro fertilization with just one egg, which yields a 10 percent success rate. The ruling has been appeal by the state.

In 2001, Trejos, representing 10 infertile couples, challenged the Sala IV ruling before the commission, which is part of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The commission will decide whether to bring the case before the

Inter-American Court

on Human Rights, based in San José.

Andrea Bianchi, one of the plaintiffs, testified tearfully Tuesday before the commission that she sought in vitro fertilization in Colombia at great financial and psychological cost. She presented pictures of her 6-year-old twins.

If the court awards punitive damages, Trejos said, the money would be donated to the Caja, Costa Rica’s socialized health care system, to set up a “first-rate” in vitro fertilization center.

–Gillian Gillers


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