Abortion of reason in policymaking

Abortion of reason in policymaking

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus showed me just how dangerous Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent war against abortion and caesarean births are for humanity. 

In the movie, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace’s (of Millennium Trilogy fame) character uses an automated surgery table to extract an alien from her uterus. The economist with the eagle tattoo thinks that the girl with the dragon tattoo is really lucky.

If Turkey finally managed to export high-tech products, to the extent that her spaceship Prometheus was manufactured in Turkey, such a procedure would not be available on the ship. But then again, as Health Minister Recep Akdağ has remarked, the state would take care of unwanted babies, even aliens.

There are several important themes here. For one thing, it is useful to differentiate between caesareans and abortion. While I am no medical expert, it seems that the rate of caesareans, which may cause difficulty in subsequent pregnancies, is higher in Turkey than in developed countries.

No wonder then that Erdoğan emphasized that caesareans and abortion are “covert plans to erase our nation from the world stage”.  And I wasn’t surprised when he hinted of a “Jewish hand” behind this sinister plot. After all, the Jewish lobby has been trying hard to raise Turkish interest rates. I am now waiting for the pro-government dailies to “expose” the Jewish owners of the private hospitals that undertake most caesareans. 

Istabul think-tank Betam shows, in a recent reserach note, that public support for abortion has waned in the last two decades, so you may argue Erdoğan is playing to the masses. Besides, the war against abortion and caesareans is the latest in a string of ultra-conservative policies implemented, or at least attempted, by the government. 

Last but not the least, banning abortion would lead women to illegal clinics. If you are wondering what sort of an experience that would be, I would recommend the Romanian movie 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. According to the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), the legalization of abortion in 1983 caused women’s deaths during pregnancy to decrease by tenfold. 

But the most tragic part of all this debate is that no one other than the TTB has tried to support their arguments with data. For example, I would have expected one of the country’s economists to use the current debate as an opportunity to replicate the famous Donohue-Levitt paper, where the authors “offer evidence that legalized abortion in the United States has contributed significantly to recent crime reductions”. 

The idea is that unwanted children are more likely to be left unattended and consequently resort to crime. Donohue and Levitt show that “crime began to fall roughly 18 years after abortion legalization”. Looking at18 years after 1983 is problematic in Turkey because it corresponds to the 2001 crisis, when you’d expect crime rates to increase. So I thought I could analyze the difference in number of crimes committed by those born right before and after abortion was legalized. 

But the Turkish Statistical Institute’s crime statistics were down on Friday. As we Turks say, fish rots from the head down. Or shit rolls downhill, as Shakespeare would say.