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The Indonesian Council of Ulema, the highest authority on Islam in the world's largest Muslim nation, has decreed that victims of rape should be allowed to have an abortion, the council's deputy chairman has said.
"In rape cases, pregnancy is forced on the victims. It is not a planned or wanted pregnancy," Ma'aruf Amin told AFP.
But he added that the recently issued fatwa also mentioned that abortion was only permitted if the foetus was not yet 40 days old.
"At the age of 40 days after pregnancy, the foetus already has a soul... so that to prevent the taking of life the abortion should be conducted before the 40th day of pregnancy," Amin said.
He said that abortion was also allowed if the situation threatened the life of the mother.
The state Antara news agency, quoting research by a foundation for women's health, said that about two million Indonesian women underwent abortions in 2004.
Indonesian state law allows abortions only on medical grounds, if the mother is threatened or the baby could be born with a serious handicap. It also allows for abortion if the pregnancy could lead to mental disorder, such as in cases of incest or rape.
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation with over 90 percent of its 220 million people followers of Islam. Islam does not permit abortion under normal health conditions, and considers it an elaborate act of killing an innocent person.