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El Salvador’s supreme court refuses to allow sick woman to terminate pregnancy


El Salvador’s Supreme Court has ruled against allowing a woman suffering from kidney failure and lupus to terminate a pregnancy which the foetus is given no chance of surviving.

The Central American country’s laws prohibit all abortions, even when a woman’s health is at risk. The woman – and any doctor who terminated her pregnancy – would face criminal charges. The judges voted 4-1 to reject the appeal by the woman’s lawyers, who argued that continuing with the pregnancy put her life at risk. The court said physical and psychological exams done on the woman, who is 26 weeks pregnant, by the government-run Institute of Legal Medicine found her diseases were under control and she could continue the pregnancy.

The 22-year-old mother of one is described as in fragile health. She has lupus, a chronic immune disorder, as well as kidney failure, and medical experts have said the pregnancy is a threat to her health.

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

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 Institute of Legal Medicine argued that the pregnancy should be allowed to continue.

A medical committee at the maternity hospital where the woman has been treated said the baby would not survive and recommended terminating the pregnancy, adding that 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 opposing abortion, said the woman should see if there were any medical procedures available to induce an early delivery.