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World News

Togo legalizes abortion in rape, incest cases

LOME (Reuters) - Togo has become one of few African countries to legalize abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or an incestuous relationship, according to a copy of a new law seen by Reuters on Thursday.

Abortion is illegal in most African countries unless medics deem the procedure necessary to protect the mother’s life or physical health.

Traditional cultural and religious beliefs in many African countries including Togo condemn abortion. Pro-choice campaigners argue such restrictions lead to dangerous backstreet operations by untrained amateurs.

“The voluntary interruption of pregnancy is only authorized when prescribed by a doctor and on request of the woman in cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape or of an incestuous relationship,” the Togolese law said.

It also allowed abortion “if there is a strong risk that the unborn child will by affected by a particularly serious medical condition”. Anyone involved in an illegal abortion would be punishable by fines and up to five years in prison, it said.

Birth rates in West Africa are among the highest in the world and modern contraceptives are not universally available.

Less than 10 percent of married women use modern contraception in Togo. The fertility rate in the former French colony is around six children per woman, according to United Nations figures.

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