A ban on abortion in the Roman Catholic Philippines has caused a human rights crisis, with more than half a million women unsafely terminating their pregnancies each year, a rights group said.
The New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights issued a report this week saying about 1,000 women died annually in the Philippines after having backstreet abortions.
"The criminalisation of abortion in the Philippines... violates women's human rights by denying them access to safe and legal abortion," the report said.
And despite abortion being illegal, more than 560,000 women terminated their pregnancies each year, according to the centre, which has been working with local women's rights groups in the Philippines for several years.
The centre described a "human rights crisis" arising from deaths and illnesses caused by unsafe abortions, an analysis that local women's rights groups said was accurate.
"Because of illegality women have clandestine and unsafe abortions," Clara Rita Padilla, executive director of EnGendeRights, told AFP.
The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world that bans abortion in all circumstances.
The Centre for Reproductive Rights called for a law that would allow women to have abortions in special circumstances: such as if the fetus was impaired, if the mother's health was in jeopardy or following rape.
Contraception is a controversial subject in the Philippines -- where about 80 percent of the country are Catholic -- and the report cited lack of access to contraceptives as one factor contributing to unplanned pregnancies.
About 54 percent of all pregnancies that occurred in the Philippines in 2008 were unplanned, the report said.
However Josephine Imbong, legal counsel for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, an organisation of senior Church figures, said a high number of abortions was not a justification for legalising the practice.
"I could also give figures on how many drug addicts there are in this country. Does that mean we should make drug use legal? " Imbong told AFP.
Imbong said the right to life was embedded in the Philippine constitution, and that from conception the unborn should be protected.