San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica's deadline to reinstate in vitro extended to May 31

The deadline given to Costa Rica by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to decide whether it will send its in vitro fertilization case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) expired Wednesday. But the IACHR has decided to grant Costa Rica three more months to enact new legislation that would legalize the practice.

Two days before the expiration date passed, the government of Costa Rica sent an official letter to the commission requesting more time to comply with the recommendations the organization issued to the government in August 2010. Costa Rica now has until May 31 to comply with the IACHR’s regulation.

The controversial case has incited debate between the Catholic Church and doctors, human rights advocates and infertile couples that support the procedure in Costa Rica. It began when the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica outlawed in vitro fertilization in 2000. A year later, Dr. Gerardo Trejos Salas filed a complaint on behalf of nine Costa Rican couples to the IACHR in response to this ruling. Last August, the IACHR issued Report 85/10 urging Costa Rica to legalize in vitro fertilization in a manner that complies with international treaties that the country has ratified. The Costa Rican government responded with a draft in October 2010, which has been sharply criticized by medical professionals for being discriminatory and dangerous for women. The legislation is still being debated in the Legal Affairs Commission within the Legislative Assembly.

“Given the sensitivity of the issue, additional time is required for adequate discussion in congress,” the Foreign Ministry said in an official statement issued Wednesday morning.

Maria-Isabel Rivero, outreach office director at the IACHR, said the deadline issued by the IACHR was not final and was intended for the commission to see if the Costa Rica is taking action to comply with the recommendations. Since Costa Rica appears to be taking action, the extension was granted.

Costa Rica is one of the only countries in the world that prohibits in vitro fertilization.

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