MUSTAFA AKYOL > An abortion war in Turkey?

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Prime Minister Erdoğan is skilled at launching new debates, and he often does so with strongly held opinions. The latest example is his attack on abortion as “murder.” As a bonus, he even condemned the widespread use of Caesarean section births in Turkey, and argued that this was part of a plan “to slow down Turkey’s birth rate.”

To me, this idea of a “Caesarean conspiracy” against Turkey sounded quite ridiculous. I also found it alarming that Erdoğan and his Cabinet are growing increasingly fond of such conspiracy theories. Like their Kemalist predecessors, they have begun to routinely complain about “foreign powers” that threaten Turkey’s peace, prosperity and power. (I have begun to think that there might be a paranoia catalyst in Ankara’s water system or something, for whoever lives in that awkward city enough gets helplessly conspiracy-phobic.)

The abortion side of the debate, however, is important. Yet while this issue might raise some controversy in Turkey, I don’t expect it to become a culture war as big as the one in the United States.

The main reason is the Islamic view of abortion, which, just like that of Judaism, tends to be slightly more lenient than the Christian view. Most Catholic or Evangelical Christians believe that life begins at conception, so they regard abortion at any stage as murder. Most Islamic scholars, however, tend to think that the fetus is “given a soul” when it is fully formed, which takes place only in the fourth month of pregnancy. Although most Islamic scholars favor abortion at no stage, they are likely to find it permissible in the first trimester.

This is probably one of the reasons that Turkey’s laws allow abortion until the tenth week of pregnancy. (Although Turkey is a secular state and its laws do not derive from Islamic sources, the cultural attitudes in society seem to have affected law making.) That is also why there has not been a resolutely “pro-life” movement in Turkey as well.

So why, then, did Erdoğan launch an attack on abortion?

There might be two reasons: The Islamic view on abortion is not monolithic, and there are those who regard it as murder at any stage. Erdoğan might be influenced by that view.

Secondly, his real concern might be Turkey’s demographics. He believes that the larger and younger the population of Turkey is, the more powerful she will be. Hence, he has been advising families to have three children. His opposition to abortion, in other words, might well be an expression of his yearning for more Turkish babies.

Finally, if you are wondering about my personal opinion on abortion, here it is: I am neither categorically “pro-life” nor “pro-choice.” I actually often feel my self closer to the former camp, for I certainly believe that the unborn baby certainly has a right to life, and this cannot simply be left to the “choice” of the mother, as secular feminists often claim. I just am not inclined to see the very early stages of a fetus as a human being. I also see that abortion might have understandable grounds on bases such as rape, a deformed fetus, or the health of the mother.

Moreover, I see that Turkey has more burning issues than abortion these days. The Kurdish question is still bleeding, and results in tragic deaths such as the 34 victims of “collateral damage” in Uludere, or the police officers who get killed by the PKK. The government would be wiser to focus on saving those living souls, before those of the unborn.


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Notice on comments

S. Tinaz

6/16/2012 10:15:51 AM

In many countries abortion issue comes up during elections or at times of need for smoke screen when certain sensitive issues are at public view. In election times certain parties seek the religious votes by going anti -abortion and the other party goes for women's right issues and try to get votes, this also helps them from discussing other issues such as health coverage,education, jobs,etc. After the elections it will be put on shelve,then will be discussed again if the need arises.. foryears

JJ Ahf

6/1/2012 7:08:09 PM

Begum I hope your children will not be known as the children of a rapist. Otherwise I would feel sorry for them and only for them and definitely not for you.

JJ Ahf

6/1/2012 7:02:11 PM

Turkey is a secular state Mr. Akyol? I can't stop laughing.

mara mcglothin

6/1/2012 4:02:48 PM

I cannot speak for Turkey, BUT most of tbe free world, no one has to give the permission but the woman carrying the child. It is there sole permission. With privacy laws as they are, a doctor can tell no one what medical procedure you have done, OR you can sue him. While I believe abortion should be available on demand. I also believe that instead of protesting, get busy counseling youngsters and finding homes for the babies that you want to save. Education is key.


6/1/2012 1:18:53 PM

@BEGUM: Problems Agnes hints at, namely rape, incest, poverty, teenage pregnancies are rampant in turkey. if 'pro-life' advocates were for real, they would have focused on these, not on abortion which helps so many women in turkey. Work in a state run womens health hospital to appreciate the magnitude of the womens health crisis in turkey. Rape(of spouse,of girlfriends, even daughters or just any girl)here is so endemic, it is not even seen as a crime even by the victim

american american

5/31/2012 8:04:51 PM

b stig, unfortunately all over the world states (military and police) are free to 'abort' the lives of post born citizens at will, while denying women their rights (as an american, i know how ugly the abortion debate gets and i hope it doesn't come here in the same manner). what is disturbing, both here and back home, is that so many 'right to life/pro-life' people support things like the iraq war/uludere.


5/31/2012 7:06:41 PM

@MARA, without the consent (not permission) of father, a mother can NOT end a baby's life.. i think so.. and ur thoughts r all welcome, go on pls..:)


5/31/2012 6:46:23 PM

@american american. Yes 34 in Uludere by military, but otherwise it seems that in Turkey it is the police that has the right to do abortions, pepper spray, tear gas, batons, torture... Am I wrong? Also some shooting happy people at weddings, football and so on....

american american

5/31/2012 6:10:11 PM

i guess we can all agree that the state decided to abort 34 lives at uludere...

mara mcglothin

5/31/2012 5:29:35 PM

BEGUM I am in no way insulting you or making fun of you, BUT you must allow for my opinion as well. We all eventually will have to meet our maker and atone for what we have done in our lives. No one is without fault.
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