Lithuania takes first step towards abortion ban

Lithuania's parliament took a first step towards banning abortions on Tuesday, voting for a bill that would prevent terminations except in case of rape, incest or health complications.

Forty-six lawmakers voted in favour of the draft legislation, with 19 opposed and 25 abstentions, said a member of a Polish minority party that introduced the bill.

Hailing the vote as a "success", Zbignev Jedinskij, one of eight MPs from the LLRA Polish minority party, said it had "shown that lawmakers are open to a debate on this matter which is important for society."

The current laws allow abortion in Lithuania until the 12th week of pregnancy. About 10,000 take place every year in the country of around three million people.

The draft bill now passes to parliamentary committees for further debate.

The legislation is based on a Polish law in force for twenty years, which bans abortions except in case of rape, incest, fetal malformation or a threat to the mother's health or life.

Women's organisations have said Poland's neighbour Lithuania is a popular destination for Polish women seeking abortion.