Costa Rica's absolute ban on in vitro fertilization deemed a human rights violation: implications for U.S. assisted reproductive technology policy and “personhood” initiatives

IVF was illegal in Costa Rica until overturned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This provides support for those opposed to current efforts in the U.S. to declare personhood upon fertilization or conception.]


Susan L. Crockin, J.D., Delia Ribas, M.D., Gerardo Escalante, M.D., Lauren Nussbaum, J.D., Howard W. Jones, Jr.

Volume 100, Issue 2, Pages 330-333, August 2013


In October 2000, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica handed down a decision that effectively prohibited the practice of in vitro fertilization in Costa Rica. Since there was no higher court in Costa Rica, no further legal action could be taken within that country.

An alternate route was to petition the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This court accepted the case in 2004 but there was considerable delay and there was no decision until November 2012. The decision of the Inter-American Court overturned the ruling of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica. The Inter-American Court found that IVF was a human right. It also decreed that personhood could not be acquired with fertilization but was acquired with implantation.

Thus, Costa Rica should once again be able to have IVF. However, there seemed to be some hurdles about details as to exactly what type of IVF could be practiced. In other words, there was some discussion of introducing a law that would limit the number of eggs to be harvested to the number that would be transferred, and other such impediments.

The Costa Rican experience should give comfort and encouragement to those in the United States who have concerns about efforts being made at a national level and at a state level in at least 25 states to propose legislation declaring that personhood begins with fertilization.

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