Costa Rica facing new complaint over its anti-abortion law

The Center for Reproductive Right has lodged another complaint against Costa Rica. This time the case involves a pregnant woman who was denied what the center said was a medically necessary abortion

The complaint has been lodged with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The center gave this summary:

The petition was filed on behalf of a 32-year-old Costa Rican woman who — despite carrying a fetus with a fatal impairment and suffering from depression and physical pain — was denied the therapeutic abortion she requested. While abortion is illegal in Costa Rica in most circumstances, the country’s penal code allows for the procedure when a woman’s life or health is at risk.

The woman and her husband were excited to learn they were expecting in June 2012. However, weeks into the pregnancy she began to feel sick. After being told by her doctors that the fetus had prune belly syndrome, a severe impairment where the bladder and kidneys don’t fully develop leaving the fetus unviable, she requested a therapeutic abortion on last Sept. 4.

The women’s doctors repeatedly denied her an abortion, claiming that they were only permitted to terminate her pregnancy if her life was in danger, even though Costa Rica permits abortion when a woman’s health is at risk and the woman’s health was rapidly deteriorating.

After her lawyers exhausted all options, the woman filed an appeal before Costa Rica’s Corte Suprema  last Dec. 17 asking that she be granted an early delivery as the progression of the pregnancy was aggravating her already deteriorated mental health. The court took 36 days to resolve her request — in the meantime she had an emergency caesarian on Dec. 30, a stillborn — and in its judgment the court agreed with the hospital, claiming that when she filed the request there was no threat to her health.

The center said it filed a petition in 2008 before the Inter-American Commission on behalf of   a 26 year-old Costa Rican who was told that she was carrying an fetus without a brain six weeks into her pregnancy. The commission is yet to consider this appeal, the center said.

Abortion is legal in Costa Rica only when the life and health of the pregnant woman is at risk, yet there is a lack of regulations to implement the abortion law, said the center, adding that this makes women subject to the discretion of physicians.

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