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Associated Press: Rights group slams Philippine abortion ban

By Teresa Cerojano

"A U.S.-based rights group urged the Philippines on Monday to reform a tough anti-abortion law that it says has spawned widespread underground procedures that kill about 1,000 women each year in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

An estimated 560,000 women in the Philippines in 2008 sought abortion involving crude and painful methods such as intense abdominal massages by traditional midwives or inserting catheters into the uterus, said a report by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.

About 90,000 women suffer from abortion complications and an estimated 1,000 die each year, the report said, adding that complications are among the top 10 reasons women seek hospital care.

The Roman Catholic church in the Philippines has stridently opposed the use of contraceptives and abortion. The existing law forbids abortion and is unclear about any exceptions in which it might be permitted, effectively making it a total ban, the report said. The law imposes up to six years imprisonment for women who commit intentional abortion and for doctors or midwives who help them.

And while post-abortion services are legal, women who seek them are often harassed or stigmatized even by health care workers, the report said."

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