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Rights court urges El Salvador to allow abortion to save woman's life

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday urged [resolution, PDF, in Spanish] El Salvador to allow doctors to perform medical procedures necessary to saving a 22-year-old woman's life, including an abortion, despite the country's Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] decision Wednesday denying the woman's appeal. El Salvador banned all abortions in 1999. However, the woman suffers from lupus and kidney problems, which means that her pregnancy poses a great risk to her health. The fetus suffers from a serious condition causing only partial brain development and little or no chance of survival after birth. The IACHR asked El Salvador to provide the woman with the measures necessary to preventing irreparable damage to her rights to life, physical integrity and health, in compliance with its nonbinding resolution and Articles 4 and 5 of the American Convention [text, PDF], and to report to the Court by June 7.

Earlier this month Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny [official website] introduced [speech transcript] the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 [text, PDF], which would establish new rules determining when abortions may be performed to save the life of the mother. The proposed law would not significantly change the country's strict laws on abortion, but rather would provide doctors with clarity on how to assess whether an abortion is medically necessary. The prime minister clarified that abortion would be legally permitted only if it is "unanimously certified that it is the only treatment that will save the woman's life." The law would also set a maximum 14-year penalty for the performance of an abortion deemed not to be medically necessary. The proposed legislation came shortly after the death of Savita Halappanavar [BBC report], a 31-year-old dentist who was denied a potentially life saving abortion in Ireland.

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