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Costa Rica

World's last in vitro fertilization ban falls

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After a lengthy struggle, in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures began last month in Costa Rica. This effectively ends the last full IVF ban in the world. (In countries under Islamic law, for example, IVF is permitted, albeit only within marriage.)

IVF was banned in 2000 in Costa Rica, one of the few remaining countries where Catholicism is the state religion. The ban followed pressure from religious extremists to limit women's rights and to claim full personhood for fertilized eggs (zygotes). Members of the legal, medical and scientific communities countered vigorously, for example by pointing out that a zygote remains incomplete without the developmental signals that result from implantation in the womb. Humans, after all, are not oviparous — we do not lay eggs.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights invalidated the ban in 2012 in support of those seeking IVF treatment. However, extremist lawmakers continued to obstruct IVF until February, when the court nullified their attempts to block an executive order regulating it.

Nevertheless, the battle for women's rights in Costa Rica is far from over. For example, the country has yet to implement existing legislation that allows abortion when maternal health is compromised.

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Correspondence to Felipe Mora-Bermúdez.

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Mora-Bermúdez, F. World's last in vitro fertilization ban falls. Nature 536, 274 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/536274c

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