The Meaning of Procreative Autonomy in the Inter-American System of Human Rights. An Analysis of the Decision in Artavia Murillo v. Costa Rica Case

Teresinha Inês Teles Pires

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Law and Forensic Science, Volume 15 (2018/1), pages 9-44.

Submitted: April 3, 2018. Published: May 12, 2018.

The author declares there is no conflict of interest.

Abstract: The trial and the reasons adopted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) in Artavia Murillo v. Costa Rica represent significant progress in protecting women’s procreative autonomy. The decision of the IACtHR revoked a decision of the Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica that banned the use of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in the country. With its decision, the IACtHR not only linked universal rights of freedom with procreative autonomy for women and men; but also, the IACtHR strongly reinforced an interpretation of the “right to life” that favors procreative autonomy. The decision is also remarkable by including a standard of equality in matters of procreative autonomy insofar as the IACtHR has held that women, because of negative gender stereotypes in society, have been significantly undermined by the decision of the Chamber of Costa Rica to ban IVF. Moreover, as will be argued, in similar future cases courts may introduce in the analysis the Convention of Belém do Pará,considering that the elimination of the IVF services (or other limitation of women’s procreative autonomy) can be seen as a form of violence against women’s moral integrity. Finally, the author will propose the possible application of international provisions on freedom of religion in the context of a broad protection of procreative autonomy. In this perspective, we will argue that those provisions should have been included in Artavia Murillo’s decision, considering the standards stated by IACtHR regarding the right to life and non-discrimination based on religion.

Keywords: procreative autonomy, gender equality, gender stereotypes, fundamental freedoms, right to life, religious discrimination


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