SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, June 21, 2011 ( – Despite intense foreign pressure, Costa Rica rejected a bid to overturn its decade-long ban on in vitro fertilization last week.

The measure, proposed by President Laura Chinchilla, was narrowly defeated in the House of Representatives June 14th in a 26 to 25 vote, with more than half of the members breaking ranks to oppose it.

Costa Rica is the only country in the Western hemisphere that bans in vitro fertilization.  The ban was put in place by the country’s Constitutional Court in 2000, when it ruled that the practice was unconstitutional because it violated the right to life of the embryo.  IVF had been authorized by executive decree under strict conditions in 1995.

The court said that the in-vitro fertilization procedure put the embryos created at risk of death since multiple embryos are created with the procedure, with the knowledge that only one (in most cases) will survive.  “The human embryo is a person from the moment of conception … not an object … not to be frozen … not constitutionally legitimate to be exposed to a disproportionate risk of death,” it wrote.

President Chinchilla’s proposed bill would have limited the number of embryos created at one time to six, and required that all be implanted.

Her measure came after pressure from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who ordered the country earlier this year to lift the ban by July 31st.  Though the Commission’s decisions are not binding on states, they could take the country before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

President Chinchilla had been touted by some as the “pro-life” candidate in the 2010 election, but the label was questioned because of her support for abortions in cases of rape, or so-called “therapeutic” abortions where a mother’s life is at risk.