Erdogan's Call to Ban Abortion in Turkey Will Only Increase Deaths

  @ceylanwrites on June 01 2012 1:45 PM
Erdoğan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons against rebels. Reuters

In the U.S., women are labeled under one of two categories in the discussion of abortion: Pro-life or Pro-choice. Either way, the subject is sensitive anywhere in the world.

Every person has, and is entitled to have, their own idea and sensitivity about conception and whether it is acceptable to terminate a pregnancy within a particular time frame. But whichever side we may be on, banning abortion is not a solution. Yet that's precisely what's being proposed by the leader of a country whose status as a rising power ruled by a moderate Islamist party is often touted as an example for the Muslim world.   

Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called abortion murder last week, referring to it as an insidious plan and calling for legislation to restrict women's access to it.

Abortion has been legal in Turkey for almost 40 years, albeit only for pregnancies up to 10 weeks and emergency abortions for medical complications that occur after that. Now, Erdogan proposes that the procedure be banned altogether, unless there is a medical emergency within eight weeks of conception.

Why? Because Erdogan has mounting concerns over the population growth rate for a country that already has a 75 million strong, youthful population. Turkey's population will reach 90 million by 2050 without banning abortion, according to the Turkish Medical Association Secretary-General, Feride Tan?k. 

It's not just abortions that Erdogan has a problem with. He also wants to restrict cesarean births, in the belief that women often can't have more that one child after the operation.

Knowing that millions of women have had several children via cesarean makes the Prime Minister's argument baseless. There is so much concern for unborn children, but what about Turkish women?

The wealthy, including the Prime Minister, his wife and daughter, all have the means to seek medical care overseas. Should abortion be banned in Turkey, these women will have a choice, and access to the procedure.

But what about the women that appear on page three of Turkish newspapers everyday? The page assigned for victims of rape, incest, abuse and honor killings?What choice do they have when a father, uncle or neighbor rape them? Who can they turn to?

The Turkish Minister of Health, Recep Akdag, said the state would look after unwanted babies conceived through rape, suggesting that the only possible burden for a rape victim with a baby is financial. The psychological challenges were not even mentioned in Akdag's vague statement. 

In a country and culture where women already suffer from such abuses, banning abortion will only oppress women further and increase suicide rates. It will lead them to fall into the hands of butchers practicing illegal and primitive forms of the procedure, that often end up leading to infection and death.

The solution is not to impose legal restrictions and push the practice underground; it is to educate our women about sex and contraception. Further, young women need to be educated about their rights, and alternatives to abortion such as adoption programs.

Yes, the value of life and of giving birth should not be undermined, and abortion should always be a last resort that is not abused as a method of contraception. But as the Turkish government romanticizes about the future of its population, it should remember that every time a woman is deprived of a fundamental human right, it's one step closer to death.

Ceylan Yeginsu is a staff writer for the International Business Times. She has covered gender issues in Turkey extensively and is the former editor of the Women in Sight page for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News. You can follow her blog about women in Turkey here. 

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