Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 12:54 UK

Clashes over Peru abortion move

Anti-abortion demonstrators - 20 October
Both supporters and opponents of the bill protested in the capital

Hundreds of people have demonstrated in Peru's capital, Lima, as a legislative panel approved a bill proposing legalising abortion in some cases.

The bill, which proposes allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest or foetal deformity, will now be sent to Congress for debate.

Supporters and opponents of the bill shouted slogans and scuffled with police outside the Congress building.

Abortion is currently illegal in Peru unless the mother's life is in danger.

The BBC's Dan Collyns in Lima said passions were running high in the capital over the extremely contentious issue.

The rival demonstrations, mostly made up of women, were hemmed in by riot police as they chanted slogans and waved placards, says our correspondent.

"The basic human right of deciding about our bodies is not given by the state," said one women protesting in favour of the bill.

"As citizens - as women that are citizens - we are asking Congress to really talk about this and really think about the women, not about the religious ideologies or the conservative ideologies."

Another protester, Lisette Roman, told the Associated Press women were "dying everyday while getting clandestine abortions".

'Defending life'

Pro-choice protesters in Lima, Peru (20 October 2009)
The contentious bill has led to heated debate in the country

The proposal has been strongly opposed by the Catholic Church in Peru under Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, who has described it as a "death penalty".

"God has created everyone in his image and likeness and all of us have the right to exist," said one man protesting outside Congress.

"So God has a purpose for every child."

Another Catholic protester, Leoncio Castro, said he was "defending life" by opposing the bill.

Rights groups say that more than 370,000 illegal abortions are carried out in Peru each year, but anti-abortion activists reject that figure.

A recent poll showed that just over half of Peru's population opposed extending the law.

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