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Year: 2009 Type: Article Language: English

The women of Indonesia with unwanted pregnancies face stark choices: giving birth and facing social ostracism, loss of family support network, and even harsh criminal punishment; or an abortion from a clandestine provider, risking serious injury or death. The complexity of Indonesian life is multifaceted. Ruled by multiple formal and traditional legal systems, it remains embroiled in an on-going struggle to establish its identity during the process of democratization and a strengthening of Islamic values in a time when the vast majority of its population, as Muslims, feel under attack by the West’s ‘war on terror’. The campaign to bring in a new health bill including the decriminalization of abortion has been challenged, facing lack of consensus that high maternal mortality rates are primarily caused by clandestine abortions, varying reasons behind reforms to the health law, and lack of political will to see through the change because of difference of opinion. The powerful combination of liberal and secular values that is manifest in Indonesian people is complex, but also holds hope that change remains possible.

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