Abortion in Costa Rica

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Abortion in Costa Rica is severely restricted. Currently, abortions are allowed only in order to preserve the life or physical health of the woman. Abortions are illegal in cases of rape or incest, when the foetus suffers from medical problems or birth defects, for social reasons, and for economic reasons. Abortions are not available on demand, with no reason given. Currently, it is unclear whether or not abortions are legal to preserve the mental health of the woman.[1]


Currently, abortions in Costa Rica are most commonly practiced in secret, either in private clinics or by other means where statistics of maternal deaths are difficult to obtain. In 2007, data revealed that the number of illegal abortions is on the rise, up to 22.3 for every 1,000 from 10.6 for every 1,000 women. This comes out to about 27,000 illegal abortions being performed in Costa Rica annually.[2]

Legal issues

Induced abortion is classified as a crime in the Penal Code of 1970, included in the crimes against life. Doctors who suspect that a woman has had an abortion are obligated to report them to the Organization of Judicial Investigation (Organizacion de Investigacion Judicial). Punishment may vary depending on if the woman consented or not to the procedure, and depending of if the fetus had reached six months' gestation at the time. In 2003, there were no women or doctors in prison for having or performing an abortion, however there was one lay woman, an untrained midwife, accused of carrying out abortions who served a three-year sentence. Although the United Nations Human Rights Council recommended in 1999 that Costa Rica should introduce more exceptions to the prohibition of abortions, the actual Costa Rican legislature intended to increase penalties for abortions due to their Roman Catholic background.[3] Future reforms to the law seem unlikely as current President Laura Chinchilla is strictly opposed to the legalization of abortion.[4]

Public opinion

Public opinion regarding abortion in Costa Rica is heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Under this religious presence, abortion under any circumstance is highly stigmatized and there are many doctors who will not carry out an abortion for any reason at all.[5]


In 2003, a nine-year-old girl living in Costa Rica, known to the media as “Rosa”, became pregnant after being a victim of sexual abuse. Consequently, Rosa was left in a state where her physical and emotional state was very delicate. She was denied the opportunity to have an abortion by authorities, who alleged that the consequences of an induced abortion would be worse than her carrying the pregnancy to term. Eventually, Rosa was able to travel to Nicaragua, where, after much controversy, she was able to have an abortion in a private clinic.[6][7]


  1. ^ http://www.pregnantpause.org/lex/world02.htm
  2. ^ http://www.lifenews.com/2008/09/23/int-930/
  3. ^ http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/IES/costarica.html#9
  4. ^ http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/costa_rican_presidential_candidate_reveals_opposition_to_abortion_and_same-sex_marriage/
  5. ^ http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/international-program/costa-rica-country-program-18998.htm
  6. ^ http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/IES/costarica.html#9
  7. ^ Chan, Sue (23 March 2003). "Nicaragua Shaken By Child's Abortion". CBS News. Retrieved 29 March 2011.