November 28, 2012 (HLIWorldWatch.org) – Costa Rica has fought admirably to preserve its pro-life laws and culture, but abortion advocates believe they have found a means to get around laws that defend unborn human life. Although abortion is not yet legal in Costa Rica, those who promote abortion are working to legalize in-vitro fertilization (IVF) as a means toward that end.

A court ruling is expected this week which may take Costa Rica off the list of the few countries that do not legally permit IVF, a process in which embryonic human beings are artificially created outside a mother’s womb, then surgically implanted in the hope that they survive until birth.

In March 2000, the Supreme Court in Costa Rica criminalized the practice of IVF. In 2010, however, 18 plaintiffs sued the government, arguing this ban violated their privacy. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), a leading international pro-abortion organization, is behind the effort to legalize IVF in Costa Rica, and admits that its intentions go beyond this particular case:

In a case that could undermine women’s access to reproductive technologies, contraception and abortion across North, Central and South America— including the United States— the Center for Reproductive Rights today joined a legal battle against Costa Rica’s in-vitro fertilization ban. (emphasis added)

The Center for Reproductive Rights is attacking Costa Rica’s IVF laws as a means to push for greater access to abortion and contraception.  CRR believes that legalizing IVF in Costa Rica will have, what they consider, positive repercussions for other “reproductive health” issues in the pro-life nations of Latin America. They call laws against IVF a “personhood movement in disguise, similar to efforts in the U.S. to define a fertilized egg as a person.” And should the court uphold the ban, CRR says “a multitude of family planning technologies will be at risk, including … methods of contraception, like IUDs.” They also believe a ruling in Costa Rica’s favor would “make it even more difficult to fight the draconian abortion bans in places like Chile and El Salvador.”

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This technology remains opposed on moral grounds by the Catholic Church. Since IVF leads to the destruction of most of the embryos created in the process, there is a heated debate over its ethical status, although it has been accepted even by many Catholics who are unfamiliar with the nature of the IVF process and related Church teaching. It is unequivocally opposed by the Church on the grounds of both the massive destruction of human life (90 percent of the embryonic children involved do not survive the process) and the violation of the natural and exclusive procreative relationship between spouses. Further, IVF has been linked to severe health complications for women who undergo the process, and to serious health consequences for the few children who do survive until birth.

The Inter-American Court on Human Rights, a Washington, D.C.-based tribunal tasked with enforcing the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR, of which Costa Rica is a signatory), heard testimony in September 2012 from the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs allege that their government’s laws prevent them from becoming pregnant, which caused some of their marriages to split, and other emotional harm.

The Costa Rican government has long held out against legalizing IVF but now faces the possibility that this tribunal could overturn the law of the land. Not only could Costa Rica be forced to legalize IVF, but it could also be forced to compensate the plaintiffs for “damages.” Attorneys for Costa Rica argue that its Constitution protects human life “300 days before birth.” Moreover, they contend that Article 4 of the ACHR protects human life from the moment of conception; therefore, their ban of IVF complies with the law.

If the court rules that Costa Rica must legalize IVF, lawmakers in the country will have to pass legislation allowing the procedure to take place, and also establish a regulatory framework for implementation.

The Catholic Church condemns IVF because it objectifies the human person, treating him as a commodity. As the Catholic bishops of Costa Rica stated in opposing a proposed IVF bill in 2011:

[T]he fruit of human generation from the first moment of its existence, that is, from the constitution of the zygote, calls for unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his corporal and spiritual totality.

If IVF does become legalized, it will be even more difficult for Costa Ricans to fight against the legalization of abortion, since the constitutional defense of unborn human life would be undermined by the decision.

Kevin Kukla is a freelance writer who resides in Irving, Texas.