The Inter-American Court of Human Rights [official website, in Spanish] ruled [judgment, PDF, in Spanish; press release, PDF, in Spanish] Thursday that Costa Rica's ban on in vitro fertilization (IVF) violates the rights to privacy, liberty, personal integrity and to form a family, as recognized under international law. The challenge was filed [JURIST report] in July 2011 on behalf of [text] 50 Costa Rican couples who have had to seek IVF procedures in other countries as a result of the ban. In 2000 the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica [official website] banned IVF, declaring the practice unconstitutional because it violates an embryo's right to life. Since then, maintaining the ban has received support [The Australian report] from conservative groups and the Catholic church in Costa Rica. Their campaigns focused on the disposal of fertilized eggs common in IVF procedures, portraying the practice as tantamount to murder.
IVF is a type of fertility treatment for couples who have had difficulty conceiving children. Through IVF, a woman's eggs are removed and fertilized outside the body. Successfully fertilized embryos are then implanted into the woman for gestation. Costa Rica was the only Western nation that banned the practice. Although the nation is known for a progressive human rights and civil liberties record, the government usually holds to the Catholic Church's edicts on many social issues. In August 2010 the Supreme Court of Costa Rica ruled 5-2 to disallow a nationwide referendum [JURIST report] on whether to recognize same-sex civil unions [JURIST backgrounder]. The referendum was to be on the ballot during the December 2010 municipal elections after qualifying for the ballot through a petition.