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Last week, a woman from Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, miscarried after nine hospitals refused to admit her. In August 2006, 19 hospitals refused to admit a woman, also from Nara Prefecture, who had lost consciousness during delivery. She died eight days after she gave birth in the 20th hospital. These two incidents highlight Japan’s shortage of maternity clinics and obstetricians and the Nara prefectural government’s slowness in improving its ability to transport pregnant women in critical condition to hospitals that can admit them.

The Kashihara woman was picked up by an ambulance shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday after complaining of a stomachache and bleeding. Her water broke at around 5 a.m. on her way to the 10th hospital. Approximately 10 minutes later the ambulance collided with a minivan. She arrived at the hospital in another ambulance around 5:50 a.m. and the fetus was pronounced dead.

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