El Salvador Supreme Court Denies Abortion For Ill Woman

A pregnant 22-year-old in El Salvador whose case has put an international spot on the country's strict anti-abortion laws will not be allowed to terminate her pregnancy.

El Salvador's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday against allowing the woman suffering from kidney failure and lupus to have an abortion. Doctors say fetus has no chance of survival and her own life is at risk if she carries to full term.

The young mother of one, who goes by the name Beatriz to protect her identity, is carrying an anencephalic fetus, which means it has no brain and is only expected to survive a few hours after birth.

She is currently 26 weeks pregnant.

The Central American country's laws prohibit all abortions, even when a woman's health is at risk. At present, the woman and any doctor who terminated her pregnancy would face arrest and criminal charges.

The judges voted 4-to-1 to reject the appeal by the woman's lawyers, who argued that continuing with the pregnancy puts her life at risk.

The court said physical and psychological exams done on the woman by the government-run Institute of Legal Medicine found that her diseases are under control and she can continue the pregnancy.

The woman is described as in fragile health. Medical experts have said the pregnancy is a threat to her health.

Ultrasound images, meanwhile, indicated the fetus is developing with only a brain stem, a condition known as anencephaly. Most babies born with anencephaly live only a few days.

There was no immediate reaction to the ruling, which was announced late in the day. Lawyers for the woman did not return calls.

Before the court heard arguments in the case two weeks ago, the government's Health Ministry said it supported the woman's request for an abortion on health grounds. But the government's Legal Medicine Institute argued the pregnancy should be allowed to continue.

A medical committee at the maternity hospital where the woman has been treated said the baby wouldn't survive and recommended terminating the pregnancy, saying the woman's health "will certainly get worse as the pregnancy advances."

El Salvador's attorney general for human rights, Oscar Luna, said earlier that "in reality, what should prevail above all are human rights — in this case, the right to life."

The Yes to Life Foundation, a Salvadoran group that opposes abortion, said the woman should wait to see if there were any medical procedures available to induce an early delivery. Regina de Cardenal, the head of the group, said the case was being used to press for legalized abortion in El Salvador.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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