Some 300 women in Turkey are calling Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the “women’s enemy” over remarks he made last week in which he likened abortion to murder. On Saturday in Ankara, where he was speaking to his ruling AK-Party which follows an Islamic-conservative agenda, Erdogan said
“I see abortion as murder… I am asking you: what’s the difference between killing a baby inside a mother’s womb and killing a baby after birth?”
Erdogan then compared abortion to one specific act of violence, the December killing of 34 Kurdish civilians in Uludere, on Turkey’s Iraqi border, by a failed Turkish military airstrike. The incident has led to “intense political pressure” on his government, says the Wall Street Journal. “Each abortion is one Uludere,” said Erdogan, who also said that abortion and caesarean births are part of “a sneaky plan to wipe the country off the world stage.”
Since 1983, abortion has been legal in Turkey up till ten weeks from contraception; after that it can be performed in emergency circumstances. Abortion is on the rise in Turkey: Around 60,000 abortions were performed in 2009 and nearly 70,000 in 2011, says Agence France-Presse via Raw Story. The Wall Street Journal notes that there is “no clear consensus on the subject [of abortion] in Islam.”
But on Tuesday, Erdogan’s health minister, Recep Akdag, said that the government indeed wishes to reduce the number of abortions, notes the Associated Press. At the opening of a hospital in Istanbul, Erdogan not only said that his government is preparing legislation about abortion but that “we will pass that.”
Erdogan has long urged Turkish families to have three children to ensure that the country’s workforce is young and energetic. A December survey from the Turkish Statistical Institute found that some 25 percent of the country’s population of 75 million is under 14 years old. Abortion, says Erdogan, is nothing more than a “sneaky plan to wipe the nation off the world stage” and that “it has no place in our values.”
In addition, Erdogan has also spoken out against caesarean births, which account for about half of births in Turkey and at more than double the rate for other countries in the European Union.
Women Protest: “It’s our womb”
On Tuesday, women protesting Erdogan’s inflammatory statements stood outside his office and held up banners reading “Is the right to abortion the prime minister’s business?,” “Uludcere is murder, not abortion,” and “It’s our womb, we have Caesasarean delivery or abortion.”
Canan Gullu, head of the Federation of Women’s Associations, dubbed Erdogan’s attempts to attack women a “grave mistake” and questioned why he had not pointed out a number of other issues affecting women’s health, including ”unemployment, domestic violence, or their inadequate standing in political life, instead of making politics over women’s bodies.”
In 2004, the Turkish government supported a law that criminalized adultery; pressure from the European Union led to it abandoning it:. Women in Turkey must be ready for a fight to preserve their rights, amid an already-present shift towards conservative and repressive policies about abortion and women’s health. The government of Turkey needs to know that, as lawmaker Aylin Nazliaka, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party said:
“The prime minister should stop guarding vaginas.”
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