San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
In vitro defiance

Next up for new ombudswoman Montserrat Solano: Costa Rica's inaction on in vitro fertilization

An attorney representing 22 couples involved in a legal dispute with the Costa Rican government regarding its failure to legalize in vitro fertilization has turned to the country’s new ombudswoman, Monserrat Solano Carboni, for help.

Attorney Huberth May asked Solano to issue an official statement regarding Costa Rica’s lack of action on IVF, despite the country being ordered by the San José-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights to legalize IVF procedures in 2012. Costa Rica is the only country in the Western Hemisphere with an IVF ban in place.

“We are very optimistic. [Solano] is very committed to our fight,” May said on Monday evening, following a meeting with the ombudswoman, who took office only a few weeks ago. “She said yes to our request for an official statement from her office before Nov. 26, the day Costa Rica’s government must submit a report to the IACHR.”

The couples also are waiting for rulings on civil lawsuits filed in administrative court seeking $100,000 each for the government’s refusal to offer IVF services at public hospitals.

Solano promised to make the issue a priority for her office until lawmakers act in compliance with the rights court ruling. Former Ombduswoman Ofelia Taitelbaum also had issued statements in favor of making IVF procedures available to the public.

“Our office has been working on this issue for the past two years, and we will continue to do so,” Solano said. “This is obviously something that concerns us, because it involves whether or not the state will comply with its international human rights obligations. In that sense, the Ombudsman’s Office will have an oversight role.”

May added that Solano offered to press lawmakers to pass a bill outlining IVF regulations.

“She told us that her office fully understands that the [IACHR] ruling is mandatory, and the government must comply with it,” May said.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, May said his clients could turn to international organizations such as Amnesty International “to exert external pressure on the country.”

Costa Rica passed a ban on IVF procedures in March 2000 following a ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV. The Catholic Church and conservative lawmakers also have exerted intense pressure to maintain the ban.

In December 2012, the IACHR ordered Costa Rica to legalize and reinstate IVF, and it set a year limit for the government to draft and adopt legislation to provide couples with access to IVF procedures in public hospitals.

Almost two years later, lawmakers have failed to agree on a bill that would regulate the procedure. Members of the current Legislative Assembly took office last May.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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