We are writing to express our support for the implementation of clear regulations and guidelines for health care professionals in Costa Rica to ensure women’s access to therapeutic abortion. For almost 50 years, women in Costa Rica have been denied their legal right to abortion care when their life and health were at risk.
Ana and Aurora are two of these women.
Aurora was told that her fetus would not survive pregnancy. Yet despite a steep decline in Aurora’s physical and mental health, doctors refused her access to a therapeutic abortion. She was forced to continue to carry the pregnancy, which only magnified her pain and suffering. She went into early labor and had to undergo an emergency cesarean section. The baby was delivered stillborn.
Ana was denied abortion care after doctors informed her that she was carrying a fetus with anencephaly, a fatal diagnosis that means the fetus has no brain. She was forced to continue with the pregnancy and suffered mistreatment from medical staff while at a public hospital, causing her to fall into a deep depression. She was denied a cesarean section, and forced to undergo seven hours of painful labor, delivering a stillborn. Today, Ana still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic gastrointestinal issues from being forced to endure the pregnancy complications. The injuries forced her to leave her job and career.
While Costa Rican law allows a woman to voluntarily end a pregnancy in cases where her health or life is at risk, no administrative procedure or a clinical protocol exists on how to interpret this provision of the law. Access to care is not clearly defined, resulting in the majority of doctors refusing to perform therapeutic abortion in most cases. Currently, doctors can be sentenced up to 10 years if found guilty of providing an abortion deemed illegal under Costa Rica’s penal code. Often this affects the most vulnerable women, who do not have the means to travel elsewhere to seek care.
Without these regulations, women like Aurora and Ana—along with thousands of other Costa Rican women—are denied their fundamental human right.
We demand the government approve technical regulations and protocols to prevent these injustices from happening again, as well as provide individual reparations to both Ana and Aurora, who suffered irrevocably.
We urge you not to deny essential reproductive health care to countless Costa Rican women.
*The cases of Ana and Aurora were filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by the Center for Reproductive Rights and a local partner, Colectiva por el Derecho a Decidir.