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Photo Credit: Turkish Daily News

Coming from the states, I know what a divisive and overly politicized issue, abortion can become.  Until recently, I was impressed by the lack of politics that surrounded abortion in Turkey. All of this has changed in the past week. Abortion (and the nation’s over reliance on c-sections) has become Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent target. Obviously this comes as no surprise. He is a social conservative who loves to assert his power and opinions in the public and private sphere. His power is virtually unchecked and the AKP party can pass almost any piece of legislation they desire.  Calling abortion ‘murder’, Erdogan wants to severely limit women’s access to abortion. In his current proposal, he attempts to ban abortion after 4 weeks, and implement a series of restrictions on doctors that perform the procedure.

Turkey prides itself on being a secular state. How can the government implement a law justified by religious beliefs? Erdogan celebrates the false claim that Turkey strives to be a democracy. No country can claim to embrace democratic ideals, while also limiting the freedom of its citizens. Nor can a democracy thrive with the oppression of 50 percent of the population. A woman’s body should not be controlled or regulated by anyone, especially the government. Any attempt to do so is oppression.  It is not easy for any woman, couple or family to choose to have an abortion. It is a decision that nobody wants to make, but a  freedom that men and women must value and protect. How can we penalize women for unwanted pregnancy in a country that lacks sex education programs in their schools? How can we penalize women who are taught to be fearful of using the birth control pill, and are encouraged to rely on their partner for ‘withdrawal’? Also, what expertise does the government have to control and regulate medical procedures?

The medical community has spoken. In a report presented by the Turkish Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology to the Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission,  the following was written: fertility health and access to an abortion must be guaranteed to ensure the health and vitality of the country. The report also emphasized that the mortality rate of mothers where abortion is illegal is high.  The right to an abortion does not necessarily prevent abortions, it limits access to safe abortions. We must reevaluate the underlying issues that cause a woman to seek an abortion, before we can even consider limiting this procedure.

Hundreds of people attended the protest today in Kadikoy. I hope their voices are heard.

“My Body, My Decision”: The Abortion Debate in Turkey

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