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Indonesia's new abortion rules draw activists' ire

Terminations should be outlawed completely, says pro-life group

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Indonesia's new abortion rules draw activists' ire
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An amendment to Indonesia's 2009 Health Law that further restricts a rape victim from obtaining an abortion does not go far enough, pro-life activists said, insisting that all abortions should be outlawed.

The new regulation, signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on August 8, allows an abortion to be performed if the pregnancy resulted from a rape, but only within 40 days of the woman's last menstrual cycle. The regulation also clarifies what determines a life-threatening illness for the woman or child – the other condition allowing an abortion – but restricts this too by requiring the woman to obtain permission from her husband.

An existing article in the 2009 Health Law placed no restrictions on when a rape victim could obtain an abortion.

"Abortion must not be legal. Just because the pregnancy results from rape doesn't mean it can be aborted," Angela N. Abidin, a medical doctor who heads the Pro-Life Communication Forum, told ucanews.com on Thursday.

Instead, "pregnant rape victims must be given counseling programs so that they can take care of the fetus without having to face the negative effects of rape," she said.

Abidin said many pregnant rape victims worry about the future of their children. "Will they be like their fathers? Where do they live after being born? These are some questions raised by pregnant rape victims. We, however, have solutions. We give them love and consolation during counseling programs," she said.

Holy Family Fr Hibertus Hartana, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' commission for the family, said the Church hasn't issued an official statement yet regarding the new regulation. 

"A fetus must be taken care of without regard for the process of how the fetus is created. There's a life there that must be protected since insemination," he told ucanews.com.

Indonesia's Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin defended the regulation, saying abortions only can be performed under specific limited conditions. He said doctors and medical personnel are assigned the task of deciding whether an abortion is deemed necessary.

Under the new regulation, a rape victim will have the right to an abortion, which can only be performed by a certified physician and performed in an established health care facility with the consent of a doctor and a statement from a police investigator, psychologist or other expert within 40 days of the last menstrual cycle.

Critics said the new regulation will severely restrict a woman's ability to obtain an abortion in Indonesia.

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