Thai temple prepares ritual for aborted foetuses

Bangkok, Thailand - A Buddhist temple in Bangkok has announced plans to hold religious rites for victims of abortions after 2,000 foetuses were discovered at another temple's morgue earlier this week, news reports said Saturday.

Sriboonruang Temple will hold the unusual ceremony on November 27, inviting people to come to pray for the souls of aborted foetuses, the Bangkok Post reported.

Monks at the temple refused to provide details of the ritual, but said participants should contribute 300 baht (10 dollars) each.

It follows the discovery of 2,002 foetuses earlier this week at the morgue of Phai Ngern Chotanaram Temple in Bang Rak in Bangkok.

The gruesome find was made after residents near the temple complained of a foul odour. The temple's incinerator had been out of order for two months.

A police investigation revealed that the morgue had been acting as a disposal unit for thousands of aborted foetuses for years. At least one nurse at an illegal Bangkok abortion clinic has been arrested.

Both Thai law and Buddhism - the national religion - prohibit abortions, leading an estimated 150,000 women to seek illegal terminations each year.

Under Thai law, women may have abortions legally only if the pregnancy endangers their health or they were the victim of rape.

According to Ministry of Health statistics, there are about 11,000 legal abortions each year, and another 150,000-200,000 at illegal clinics, with 60 per cent involving women under the age of 25, The Nation newspaper reported quoting reproductive health division director Kittipong Saejeng.

A draft bill on reproductive health protection to help teens with unwanted pregnancies will be proposed to the cabinet on Tuesday. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has indicated the government would stop short of legalizing all abortions.