Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for legislation on Tuesday that would put severe limitations on abortion in the country. Under current law in Turkey, abortion is legal with “spousal authorization” up to ten weeks after conception or at any point without authorization if it is for medical reasons. Under Erdogan’s proposed plan, abortions would be legal only for medical reasons, and the procedure would only be permitted within eight weeks of conception. Erdogan also proposed limits on Caesarean births.
Erdogan has likened abortion to murder, angering many women’s groups in Turkey. The leader of the Female Party Initiative, a group that organized a protest in Istanbul on Monday, said that “it is strictly for the woman to decide how she would give birth, or whether she would give birth at all or not- not the prime minister.” Lilian Sepulveda, director of the Center for Reproductive Rights’ global legal program also blasted Erdogan’s proposal, saying “there are serious and dire consequences for women when abortion is severely restricted, and any attempt to dial back women’s reproductive rights in Turkey will put their fundamental human rights at risk.”
Abortion rates in Turkey are low, reports the International Business Times, and the issue has rarely been addressed in Turkish politics. UN statistics indicate that in Turkey, there are only 14.8 abortions per 1,000 women. In Europe, there are 27 abortions per 1,000 women and in the world as a whole there are 28 abortions per 1,000 women. According to the New York Times, critics have charged that Erdogan is using the issue to divert attention from an investigation into a military airstrike against Kurdish rebels that killed 34 civilians. Other groups have also said that the Prime Minister is concerned that the Kurdish minority birth rate is higher than the Turkish birthrate.
AFP 5/30/12; New York Times 5/29/12; Bloomberg 5/29/12; International Business Times 5/29/12