Erdogan: abortion is murder

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

According to the Turkish Daily Bugle, Prime Minister Erdogan has made some strong statements against abortion. Here is a small excerpt: 

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday he considered abortion as "murder." "I am a prime minister who is against Caesarean births. I consider abortion as murder," Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

Erdogan further stated that "every abortion is Uludere", referring to the botched air raid that had claimed 34 lives.
"Nobody should have the right to allow this. You either kill a baby in mother's womb or you kill it after birth. There's no difference." In Turkey, abortion is legal during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. The woman's consent is required but if the woman is married, the husband's consent is also required.
The New York Times also covered this story, going into some more detail:
Calling abortion an act of murder and an insidious plan to reduce the Turkish population, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Tuesday for legislation to restrict women’s access to the procedure.

Since 1983, abortion has been legal in Turkey for up to 10 weeks after conception, with emergency abortions allowed for medical reasons after that.Mr. Erdogan proposed outlawing all abortions that are not medically necessary, and limiting medically necessary abortions to the first eight weeks after conception, according to NTV, a private television news network.
“There is no difference in killing the fetus in a mother’s womb or killing a person after birth,” Mr. Erdogan said Tuesday, echoing comments he made Friday at the opening of a hospital in Istanbul and on Saturday to a group of female politicians in Ankara, the capital.
I noticed these comments because, I think, I had always found it interesting that abortion wasn't a bigger issue in Turkey. In the United States, of course, abortion has for decades been one of the main issues driving the religious right. In Turkey, meanwhile, I never heard of Refah types (or later, Virtue and AKP types) ever saying anything about needing to change abortion laws. Perhaps I wasn't listening well, but I don't remember this being a big issue under either Erbakan or Erdogan.

Meanwhile, there seemed to be a lot of abortion in Turkey, at least among some segments of society. It was in Turkey that I first met women (mothers and older sisters of women I knew) who had, so I was told, multiple abortions, in some cases considering abortion as birth control. In the United States, I had never (and still haven't) heard such stories first hand, involving people I knew.

A woman I worked with with once announced, at the cafeteria table, that she'd had an abortion the day before. I think she was trying to make a point--that it was a procedure no different than going to the dentist--but still. She didn't care who knew. It's hard to imagine a similar situation at a corporate cafeteria in the US.

Not that the small group of people I knew and worked with were representative of Turkish society as a whole. Nevertheless, I found it interesting that both among the world-citizen types I hung out with and even among the political leaders who championed the cause of religion in society, abortion didn't seem to be a particularly controversial topic. Indeed, in the thousands of conversations I had with people about politics over the years, I don't know if abortion ever once came up. No supporter of Refah, Virtue, or the AKP has ever mentioned abortion to me, so far as I remember. And I don't think any self-style "secular" person has ever mentioned the restriction of abortion rights as a possible outcome of "religious" rule. 

"Don't let your future slip away at an unexpected moment. Go to a Doctor!" The Family Planning Association promoting birth control in Ortakoy, Istanbul

The sign above, which I saw in Ortakoy a few years ago, doesn't seem to be about abortion, but rather birth control. Still, I found it a bit striking--striking enough to take a photograph of it. I guess I found their message--that families can be a burden--a bit refreshing, to be honest with you.

At any rate, this message is quite different from Erdogan's oft-stated belief that women in Turkey should have three children apiece. Erdogan is a big fan of the three-child policy. He also likes to pass on the population-boosting message to people in other countries. He's advised the Finns to have three children per couple, which he also recommended to the peoples of southeastern Eruope. He has told the Kazakhs that they need even more--five children per couple.

So why make abortion an issue now? Is abortion something that people in Turkey feel strongly about, even if they never talked about it? Will people in Turkey start fighting about abortion alongside the headscarf and segregated bus debates?

Maybe what matters most to Erdogan isn't abortion as a sin, but rather the role of abortion as a a hinderance to Turkey becoming more mighty through population growth. Or perhaps he's simply looking to guarantee a new generation of workers to staff the factories of his "Anatolian Tiger" supporters, I dunno.

Whatever the case, I guess it's safe to say that Erdogan thinks women in Turkey aren't busy enough as it is right now.

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