A chronically ill Salvadoran woman pregnant with a malformed foetus that doctors say will probably die has lost her Supreme Court bid to have an abortion.

The court has said the rights of the mother cannot prevail over the unborn, and vice versa . Abortions are strictly forbidden in El Salvador. The sentence for violating the ban is 50 years in prison. The 22 year-old woman, who gave her name only as Beatriz, is the mother of a two-year-old boy and is 25 weeks pregnant.

She was recently diagnosed with lupus, a disease that weakens her immune system, and doctors said the foetus she carries has anencephaly, a total or partial absence of the brain and the skull.

The child will likely die upon birth, according to the doctors.

But the Supreme Court upheld the ban on abortion, despite the dire circumstances.

Feminist groups were outraged, while Catholic organisations praised the ruling.

Salvadoran Health Minister Maria Isabel Rodriguez had asked the justices to grant Ms. Beatriz special permission to undergo the procedure, and exempt the doctors involved from any legal consequences.

The woman’s mother, Maria Delmy Cortez, had published an open letter in leading newspapers asking the court to rule in favour of her daughter.

Ms. Beatriz asked to have the abortion on grounds her own life was in danger.

But the court ultimately ruled that, after a series of tests, preventing her from having an abortion did not violate her right to health or jeopardise her life.

The case has been highly controversial. The archbishop of San Salvador, 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 responded saying the ruling “trampled on the right to life” of Ms. Beatriz. — AFP

The child will likely die upon birth: doctors