Costa Rican Bishops Warn Against IVF Draft Law

Promote Respect for the Unborn

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, FEB. 4, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Church leaders in Costa Rica are speaking out against the proposed legalization of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryonic transfer in their country.

The prelates presented their position to the Juridical Affairs Commission of the Legislative Assembly during the discussion on Draft Law 17900, reported Laura Avila of the Department of Communication of the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica.

With their intervention, the bishops contributed to the legislative discussion from the perspective of Christian anthropology, ethics and ecclesial teaching.

They expressed their certainty that "these values and principles, shared by the immense majority of the Costa Rican citizens, must be heard and considered in this delicate project."

The prelates noted that in this proposed law, "the executive power intends to respond to the petition of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to do away with the ban on in vitro fertilization and embryonic transfer, in force in the country since the year 2000 in keeping with constitutional jurisprudence." 

The government of Costa Rica has been receiving constant international pressures to change its constitution, particularly in regard to articles that impede the legalization of practices such as in vitro fertilization.

On Dec. 3, Benedict XVI met with the country's new ambassador to the Holy See, Fernando Sanchez Campos, and stated, "It is to be hoped that Costa Rica does not violate the rights of the unborn with laws that legitimize in vitro fertilization or abortion."

Technology

The Costa Rican prelates noted that the Church does not intervene on behalf of a particular competence in the realm of experimental sciences.

"On the contrary," they clarified, "after having considered the data acquired through research and technology, it wishes to propose, in virtue of its evangelical mission and its apostolic duty, the moral doctrine in keeping with the dignity of the person and his integral vocation, expressing the criteria for the moral valuation of the applications of scientific research and technology to human life, in particular in its beginnings."

The prelates underlined the criteria of respect, defense and promotion of man, his "primary and fundamental right" to life and his dignity as a person, gifted with a spiritual soul, called to beatific communion with God.

They noted that although in vitro fertilization is frequently presented to the public as the "last opportunity" for women who are sterile, those who promote it hide the fact that this technique "consents that human beings, in the weakest and most defenseless state of their existence, be selected, abandoned, killed or used as biological material."

The bishops stressed the Church's teaching that the fruit of human reproduction, from the first moment of its existence, calls for "unconditional respect, which is morally due to the human being in his corporal and spiritual totality."

The human being "must be respected and treated as person from the instant of his conception, and that is why from that very moment his rights as person must be recognized, primarily the inviolable right of every human being to life," a communiqué from the episcopal conference stated.

"On this topic there are no halfway solutions," it added.

The prelates explained that "the Church is opposed from the moral point of view to 'in vitro' homologous fertilization; it is illicit in itself and contrary to the dignity of procreation and of conjugal union, even if all the means were in place to avoid the death of the human embryo."

On this point, the constitutional court itself acknowledged that the in vitro fertilization technique and transference of embryos entails the manipulation of embryos that, previously fertilized in a laboratory, are transferred to the uterus with the knowledge that most of them are destined to die.

Respect for life

The bishops' conference noted that the American Convention of Human Rights specifies: "Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right will be protected by the law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one can be deprived of life arbitrarily."

It observed, therefore, that the right to life from the moment of conception is not an exclusively religious subject, even if there is a desire to take the debate only to this area.

The prelates noted that the reports of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights are "simple recommendations, which can be accepted or not."

Likewise, the bishops stressed that the subject of the defense of human life transcends considerations on eventual economic burdens on the Costa Rican state.

"To give in to this consideration is equivalent to putting a price on the life of Costa Ricans," they pointed out.

The prelates lamented that the Church's teaching is disqualified by some sectors and it is even accused of resisting the progress of the sciences and of ignoring the rights of spouses.

They asserted that nothing is further from reality. The conference communiqué stated: "The true meaning of science is service to human life. It is necessary to say forcefully that the human being cannot and must not ever be sacrificed to the successes of science or of technology."