Costa Rica, long considered a bastion for human rights and civil liberties in Latin America, is getting some attention – and this time, it isn’t the good kind.
The government is being sued for its ban on in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), an infertility treatment where an egg is fertilised by sperm outside the body. It is the only country in the Americas that prohibits the procedure – a ban which hurts poorer families the hardest, as they cannot afford the huge costs of having the treatment abroad.
Ban 'violates basic rights'
The law has been in place since 2000, when a court under pressure from the Catholic church declared IVF unconstitutional. A group of victims filed a lawsuit, claiming that the ban violates their rights to equality and non-discrimination, health, reproductive health and scientific progress.
In 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the ban violates Costa Ricans' basic human rights, and last month the commission announced it would take the country to court for its failure to legalise IVF in light of its 2010 finding.
A Spanish-language campaign calling for an end to the ban, launched on Avaaz’s new Community Petitions site, has already received more than 1,600 signatures. It was delivered this week to the court by victims taking part in this week's hearing.
The outcome of the case won't just be important for Costa Rica: it will have a ripple effect throughout the region on the rights of women and families to make their own reproductive health decisions – something many countries in Latin America have poor records on. (Here are some shocking stories about abortion rights in Peru and the battles over contraception in Honduras.)
The highest court in Latin America is expected to reach a decision early next year.
Read more: Find out more about how this decision could impact women's rights across Latin America.
Sources: AFP, Costa Rica News, Avaaz, Center for Reproductive Rights, Huffington Post