Ill Salvadoran woman denied abortion says to have Caesarean

SAN JOSE (AFP) - A chronically ill pregnant Salvadoran woman whose fetus likely will not survive said on Thursday she is to undergo a Caesarean section next week, after authorities barred her from having an abortion.

"I feel very well, because now they are going to do it," she told AFP by telephone, referring to the operation that has been scheduled to take place when she is 26 weeks pregnant.

The woman, 22, suffers from lupus, a disease that weakens her immune system, and doctors said that the foetus she carries has anencephaly, a total or partial absence of the brain and the skull, and likely will die upon birth.

The woman, who gave her name only as Beatriz, had asked to have an abortion on grounds her own life was in danger, but authorities in El Salvador - where abortions are strictly forbidden - refused.

On Wednesday, the country's Supreme Court refused to petition to terminate the pregnancy, saying the rights of the mother cannot take precedence over those of the unborn child.

Ms Beatriz told AFP on Thursday that she was "very nervous" but wanted the Caesarean section to ensure her own health and because "the child is not going to live". She is already the mother of a two-year-old son.

The sentence for violating the abortion ban is 50 years in prison.

The case has been highly controversial. The archbishop of San Salvador, Mr Jose Luis Escobar, asked the court several times not to allow the woman to have an abortion, arguing it would open the gates to more such requests.

Feminist groups meanwhile said the high court's ruling "trampled on the right to life" of Ms Beatriz and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) on Thursday urged El Salvador to take "urgent measures" to protect the woman's rights.

The IACHR also called on the San Salvador government to allow Ms Beatriz to be seen "by doctors of her choosing", and to protect the rights of her physicians treating her.