CUERNAVACA, Mexico, Aug. 31 (AP)--The Morelos state legislature passed a law decriminalizing abortion in numerous cases, including rape, birth defects, or when the mother's life is in danger.

Wednesday's law went even further than a new Mexico City law allowing abortions in some of those cases, and contributed to a sudden nationwide debate about abortion.

The Morelos law was approved by legislators from Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party and the leftist Democratic Revolution Party amid protests from anti-abortion activists who screamed ``Assassins!,'' the government news agency Notimex reported.

The reform to the state penal code also allows abortion when the mother has had an accident or received unauthorized artificial insemination, Notimex and other Mexican news media reported.

Legislators approving the reform said it should be up to a woman, not the state, to decide whether to have a baby under such circumstances.

Voting against the reform were five legislators from the conservative National Action Party of President-elect Vicente Fox.

Abortion is, with few exceptions, illegal in Mexico. Heated debates over the issue have surfaced in recent months, beginning with the revelation that officials pressured a 13-year-old rape victim in Baja California state to have her child--even though that state permits abortion in cases of rape.

The National Action-dominated Guanajuato state legislature added fuel to the fire Aug. 3 when it passed a law making abortion for rape victims a crime. The governor vetoed the law Tuesday.

Fox, who takes office Dec. 1 as the first president in 71 years not from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, has said he opposed abortion but did not favor changing the laws.

The leftist mayor in Mexico City, to the north of Morelos state, responded to the furor by pushing through a law that allowed abortions in cases of danger to a woman's life or of birth defects.

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