C-section OK for pregnant woman in El Salvador


SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — El Salvador's government gave permission Thursday for doctors to perform a premature delivery for a seriously ill woman whose pregnancy attorneys say is putting her life at risk.

The case of the 22-year-old woman known only as Beatriz has drawn international attention as she sought to end the pregnancy in a country with some of the strictest abortion laws in Latin America.

The move by Health Minister Maria Isabel Rodriguez came a day after the Supreme Court ruled that Beatriz, who is six months pregnant, could not have an abortion even though she suffers from lupus and kidney failure. Ultrasound images indicate that her fetus is developing with only a brain stem and is given no chance of surviving.

Because the pregnancy is 26 weeks along, abortion laws are no longer at play, according to women's groups who have supported her petition. Rather, the health ministry can determine what's most medically sound for the mother versus the unborn baby.

"She is in the hands of top-notch doctors," Rodriguez said. "The medical team at the Maternity Hospital is ready to act immediately at the slightest sign of danger."

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

The Health Department hasn't given a day or time for when Beatriz will deliver the baby by cesarean section, said Morena Herrera, a member of the Feminist Collective for Local Development, an organization that has been supporting Beatriz.

"She is going through all the medical exams to be ready for surgery," Herrera said.

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

The ruling brought widespread criticism, including a statement by Amnesty International calling the court decision "cruel and callous" and "a potential death sentence for Beatriz."

Abortion opponents said the case is being used to press for legalized abortion in El Salvador.