In vitro defiance

Costa Rica misses yet another deadline to lift ban on in vitro fertilization

Costa Rican lawmakers once again breezed past a deadline set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to legalize in vitro fertilization.

The online daily CRHoy.com reported that the legislature failed to reach a quorum to vote on the long-delayed bill that would reverse a decade-old ban on the fertility practice.

The vote planned for Thursday came down to the last hours of the 2013 legislative session, as lawmakers prepared to leave for their 46-day holiday recess. The Assembly returns to session on Feb. 4, 2014.

The failure to vote on the bill is another blow to President Laura Chinchilla’s legislative agenda as she wraps up the final months of her presidency.

Costa Rica is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to ban in vitro fertilization, a practice that fertilizes a woman’s egg outside the womb in instances where a couple cannot conceive.

Friday was the latest deadline imposed by the San José-based human rights court for the government to extend access to the treatment to all interested Costa Ricans through the national public health system.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights determined that the ban on in vitro fertilization constitutes an arbitrary interference to the right to private and family life, the right to found a family, and the victims’ right to equal protection, according to an August 2011 press release from the IACHR.

When Costa Rica failed to act on the commission’s recommendations, the IACHR sent the case to the court in July 2011.

Since 2010, Costa Rica has missed every deadline to address the IACHR and the court’s recommendations, including one last month.

The daily La Nación reported that the bill’s language said a doctor would be able to fertilize eight embryos and place up to two fertilized eggs. The law also would have required the practice to be available throughout the country’s public health system.

Costa Rica’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court handed down the ban in 2000 under pressure from the Catholic Church and conservative lawmakers, who continue to fight against access to the treatment.