San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Catholic Church likens in vitro to homicide in ads

The long-standing debate over Costa Rica’s ban on in vitro fertilization took a sensational turn this week as the Catholic Church launched a radio campaign that compared the practice to homicide.

Beginning Monday, a radio advertisement that aired on Radio Fides, which is owned by the church, featured the voice of little girl claiming that seven of her siblings died in a laboratory due to in vitro fertilization.

“Hi. I’m Sofi, the third of three brothers and sisters,” the girl said. “Though my parents love me with all of their hearts, I know that for me to enter the world, seven of my siblings died in a laboratory.”

The child’s voice was followed by a woman warning listeners about the alleged dangers of in vitro fertilization.

“Who has the right to decide about the lives of others?” she asked. “In vitro fertilization puts lives at risk.”

Another advertisement run on Radio Fides featured another young girl’s voice saying, “I was born. Why not my brothers and sisters?”

On Tuesday, the Public Seucirty Ministry’s Propaganda Control Office ordered that the advertisement be removed from the airwaves.

“For a small girl in an advertisement to say that her siblings were killed in a laboratory is discriminatory against people who actually were born from the use of in vitro fertilization,” said José Antonio Pastor, the office’s director.

Radio Fides Director Jeison Granados said the government order is against freedom of expression. He said he plans to file a lawsuit before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court requesting an injunction.

Bishop of Cartago José Francisco Ulloa on Tuesday defended the advertisement.

“The advertisements don’t accuse; they tell the truth,” he said. “We are all disappointed that so many children have died. We are looking for people who understand that there are deaths in this process, and that dead embryos have the right to live.”

Costa Rica remains one of the only countries in the world and the only country in the Americas that outlaws in vitro fertilization (IVF), a medical procedure in which a woman’s eggs are artificially fertilized outside of her body.

In August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked Costa Rica to repeal its ban on IVF, as prohibition of the practice is considered a violation of human rights. The commission has extended  Costa Rica four separate deadlines to legalize IVF. The most recent extension gives the country until July 31 to repeal the ban (TT, June 15).

By a vote of 26-25 in early June, members of the Legislative Assembly chose to shelve the bill to repeal the ban on IVF. Foreign Minister René Castro said last week he is optimistic lawmakers will lift the ban before the July 31 deadline (TT, June 24).

In December, Pope Benedict XVI supported Costa Rica’s decision to maintain the ban.

“It is advisable that Costa Rica not violate the rights of an unborn child with laws that legitimize in vitro fertilization and abortion,” the pope said. “I am reminded that it was in your country where the San José Pact was signed that expressly recognizes the value of human life from conception” (TT, Dec. 3, 2010).

AFP contributed to this report.

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