International court orders Costa Rica to allow in-vitro fertilization

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 21, 2012

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Costa Rica on Thursday to remove the legal restrictions that the Central American  country had imposed to prohibit in vitro fertilization.

A decade ago, a Costa Rican group of people filed a lawsuit against their government for issuing a ban on assisted fertilization. The ban began after the Sala Constitucional — Constitutional Court — officially prohibited the technique on Costa Rican soil. “It is a historic decision,” said Costa Rican Miguel Yamuni, a member of the group of families that over a decade ago sued the State of Costa Rica. “It is historic, because we were the only country in Latin that had the audacity to ban this medical technology,” he added.

“It is a landmark decision in the sense that the message to the Costa Rican government is that, in human rights, neither the Constitutional Court nor the Legislature (Congress) have the final say,” he added.

The sentence was made public by the Communication Minister of Costa Rica, Francisco Chacón, who announced that the Government of Costa Rica, presided by Laura Chinchilla, had received and would abide by the verdict of the Court. Instead of conducting a referendum or  public consultation, a group of Costa Rican people decided that an international court was best fitted to tell the country and its people what needed to be done regarding the decision to allow or not in vitro fertilization.

This is the kind of actions that help countries lose their sovereignty, but of course it is also something that the common people do not understand. The Costa Rican Communications Minister said that the judgment is final and that compliance is mandatory, further proving that Costa Rica has lost all vestiges of self-rule and sovereignty as it willfully accepts orders from an international court that has no power to order any country to do anything. It is the adherence of the government of Costa Rica to this organization and others such as the WTO, the UN and WHO that subjects the nation’s people to regulations created by foreigners in foreign lands.

The judgment issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights establishes that the State of Costa Rica must provide in vitro fertilization as part of its health insurance and social security programs. That is, the people of Costa Rica will have to pay taxes to finance a procedure to private citizens, as supposed to having each private individual seek and pay for this fertilization technique.

Costa Rica’s decision to ban in vitro fertilization came from its Constitutional Court which operated within the Supreme Court. The Court issued a ban on in vitro fertilization back in 2000 alleging that the procedure violated the basic rights of the unborn.

Some of the arguments used by those who oppose in vitro include the ideas that the in vitro process threatens human life and the rights of the unborn, because countless fertilized embryos are lost during the process.

The lawsuit called “Artavia Murillo and others v. Costa Rica” was filed by Costa Rican families as a last attempt to end what they call the dogma sustained by Catholic religious groups. Those groups, the pro in vitro families say, are influential opinion makers in the media and some political factions.

The conflict between those who favor in vitro fertilization and those who oppose it, grew a couple of years ago after the Commission on Human Rights, asked Costa Rican to reconsider its ban. The country refused to do so, which caused the Commission to send the case to the  Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which operated under the Organization of American States.

Costa Rica is known internationally for lacking an official army since 1948, its opposition to the death penalty since 1871 and its membership at the International Human Rights Court, which has an office in the capital city of San Jose since 1979. Besides submitting to the decisions of illegitimate international courts, Costa Rica is now throwing its support after a bill to legalize same-sex unions, which will certainly be another opportunity for another sector of the country to request help from international organizations that will make decisions for them.

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Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Human Infertility

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
February 3, 2012

Vitamin D is one of the most important building blocks of our immune system. Nothing new here. There is tons of research that shows the different ways in which people could take vitamin D to strengthen their immune systems, but most if not all of it concludes that daily exposure to UV-B rays for periods of time ranging between 10-20 minutes provides the body with enough vitamin D to fight disease. Perhaps this is new for you. Optimum levels of Vitamin D also support absorption of calcium, which in turn increases bone health, which prevents osteoporosis and diabetes.

Now, new research conducted by Austrian physicians demonstrates that vitamin D is also responsible for a healthy reproductive system and for increased fertility. The absence of optimum levels of vitamin D, however, cause infertility in both men and women. A lack of vitamin D in the body promotes hormonal imbalances in both groups and these alterations cause men to produce less testosterone and women to produce more. The consequences are lower quality semen in men. In women low levels of vitamin D often lead to too much testosterone, which therefore could increase the risk of infertility.

Doctors Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch and Elisabeth Lerchbaum researched existing literature regarding the influence Vitamin D has on human fertility. Analyzed studies included material published up to October 2011. They found that vitamin D receptors, also known as VDR’s as well as vitamin D metabolizing enzymes are found in the reproductive tissue of women and men. Some of the research shows that lower levels of Vitamin D in females (low 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) were associated with obesity and disturbances of the metabolism and the endocrine system.

The abundance of Vitamin D, they found, results in improvements in menstrual frequency in those women. Also, high 25(OH)D levels are associated with better semen quality  might increase testosterone levels. ” Mounting evidence suggests that hypovitaminosis D is linked to an increased risk for cancer 2, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases 1-3 indicating the importance of sufficient vitamin D levels,” says the report. They also found that vitamin D also modulates reproductive processes in women and men.

Today, most female infertility is caused by what doctors call polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. Meanwhile, male infertility is attributed to environmental factors which is responsible for an all time low quality of semen, with concentrations well below healthy levels. At least 20% of young men have sperm concentration below what is expected  and 40% have sperm concentrations inferior to what is considered optimal for fertility. The consulted literature suggests that many adverse aspects of male aging are a consequence of decreased levels of  testosterone, most likely due to the lack of vitamin D.

Doctors  Obermayer and Lerchbaum had their research published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, where it can be accessed and consulted. Terms used during the research process included “vitamin D”, “fertility”, “reproduction”, “PCOS”, “25-hydroxyvitamin D”, “1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D” and  “calcitriol”.

Vitamin D is what researches call a steroid hormone. The way this substance acts in the body occurs through  a precursor known as 7-dehydrocholesterol. Here comes the role of UV-B solar rays. These rays cause the precursor to convert into vitamin D3 which is then transported around the body by the vitamin D binding protein. According to the study, 80-90% of the vitamin D used by the body comes from sunlight induced production in the skin. That is why it is monumentally important to expose our bodies to sunlight on a daily basis. The more we are able to take in sun rays for safe periods of 10-20 minutes a day, the more vitamin D the body will produce naturally and the stronger our immune systems will be. Te absence of naturally produced vitamin D can be substituted with vitamin D supplements. Humans must intake between 4000 and 5000 UI of vitamin D daily through supplementation in order to keep healthy levels in their bodies.

As for the role of vitamin D in reproductive tissues, the research shows that vitamin D receptors or VDR’s are all over those tissues, which doctors believe means that vitamin D plays an important role in the human reproductive system. In women, “1,25(OH)2D3 stimulated progesterone production by 13%, estradiol production by 9%, and estrone production by 21%”. This substance is found to promote the transportation of calcium to the placenta as well as improves the development of the uterus and placental tissues, which betters the reception and implantation of sperm should a woman get pregnant.

If there is one conclusion taken from this as well as older research, is that the more exposure to sun light results in higher rates of human reproduction, and less sun light causes the opposite effect. “In northern countries, where a strong seasonal contrast in luminosity exists, the conception rate is decreased during the dark winter months, whereas a peak in conception rate during summer leading to a maximum in birth rate in spring has been observed.” These conclusions can be explained by many environmental factors, including vitamin D deficiency. “The seasonal variation of vitamin D levels, might influence several pathways including altered endometrial development and altered oocyte development,” reads the study. The findings emphasize how there is evidence that vitamin D does affect female reproduction including cases where in-vitro fertilization is used as well as cases of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

The researchers’ closing remarks encourage further research about women and men infertility levels and the role that vitamin D plays as a supportive element to improve the human immune system as well as the to promote more fertility in women and men. ” Given the high prevalence of infertility as well as vitamin D insufficiency in otherwise healthy young women 70 and men 136 and the possible role of vitamin D in human reproduction, research might lead to new therapeutic approaches such as vitamin D supplementation in the treatment of female and male reproductive disorders.”


Exposure to PCB’s May Interfere with Pregnancies

Wired.com
March 2, 2011

PCB exposure may interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant, a new study of women undergoing in vitro fertilization suggests. The study of 765 women found that those whose blood contained the highest levels of a particular form of polychlorinated biphenyl — one known as PCB 153 — were 41 percent less likely to give birth than women with the lowest levels.

One contributing factor: Fertilized eggs were half as likely to implant in women if blood concentrations of PCB-153 fell in the top 25 percent of those measured among all participants. The study appeared online Feb. 24 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

In women not undergoing IVF it would be difficult to know when to test for implantation, says John Meeker, who led the new study. So the new data may provide a window into a subtle fertility risk that would be almost impossible to find in the general population, explains Meeker, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.

His team studied blood and urine that had been collected from 765 women treated at fertility clinics in the Boston area between 1994 and 2003. Together, the women had gone through a total of 827 cycles of attempted fertilization — processes that led to 297 live births, 229 implantation failures and 301 pregnancies that naturally terminated within 20 weeks of implantation.

The researchers went into the study suspecting that the risk of implantation failure might be elevated among the most highly exposed women, based on earlier studies by others showing a similar problem in PCB-exposed rodents. Two years ago, Meeker’s team also showed that in women, PCBs can enter follicles, structures that hold egg cells. So this “does suggest that these chemicals can make it to a place where they would be in contact with the maturing egg,” he says.

More than 200 related PCBs exist. Most people inadvertently encounter a broad mix of these, including traces of PCB-153, through food and the environment. Because some of these pollutants are difficult and costly to measure in blood, the researchers tested for the sum of all PCBs as well as for a narrow spectrum of specific ones or mixes of several with related functional attributes, such as binding to hormone receptors in cells or — in PCB-153’s case — an ability to turn on certain detoxifying enzymes.

The authors caution that although they found the strongest signs of potential fertility risks associated with PCB-153, there were hints that other PCBs might also impair fertility. The team notes that PCB-153 might even serve as a marker for one or more other reproductively toxic PCBs — or related pollutants — that co-occur in the environment.

“I find the data intriguing — and think they have something here,” says David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany in New York. “I’m also underwhelmed,” he adds.

The researchers probed for a number of different reproductive endpoints, he says, including miscarriage, and what are known as chemical pregnancies — where a fertilized egg dies before a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Only implantation failures appeared at rates greater than would be expected by chance. And only for PCB-153, he adds, not for any of several different PCBs or PCB combinations.

The data would be more convincing, Carpenter says, if the authors could point to some mechanism by which PCBs might impair reproduction — such as changing the permeability of the outer membrane of egg cells.

Several years ago, Carpenter’s team showed that some cells — nerve cells and immature immune cells — can incorporate PCBs, including PCB-153, altering the fluidity of the cells’ membranes. “Something as fundamental as changing the fluidity of the membrane in the oocyte [egg cell] or uterus could, in fact, have dramatic effects on implantation,” Carpenter says.

Until their U.S. production was banned in 1979, most PCBs were used as insulating liquids in electrical transformers. Over the years, PCBs also have found use in other applications, including as an ingredient of exterior building caulk and in some floor finishes. Because many PCB-containing materials are still in use and because any PCBs that enter the environment do not readily break down, people continue to encounter exposure to these potentially toxic compounds, most often through contaminated food.