President Erdoğan’s anti-birth control remarks draw angry rebuff
AA photoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks against the employment of birth control methods by Muslim families have drawn rebukes from local rights groups and health associations, voicing concern about the negative effects of abandoning birth control.
“The most natural right of women in Turkey, which is a democratic country, is reproductive rights. This encompasses a woman being able to choose when she wants children, and how many,” the Turkish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (TJOD) said in a statement, underlining that they were “compelled” to make a statement after Erdoğan’s remarks against birth control in Muslim countries.
“I am saying this clearly, we will increase our posterity and reproduce generations. As for population planning or birth control, no Muslim family can engage in such a mentality. We will follow the road that my God and dear Prophet [Muhammad] say,” the president said in an address to the foundation of the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV) on May 30.
The TJOD slammed these statements as “violations of women’s rights,” adding that birth control methods must not be abandoned.
“Involuntary pregnancies result in unwanted abortions,” it said.
“When there is no birth control, there will be a rise in involuntary pregnancies and this will cause a rise in abortions. If abortions also become illegal, maternal mortality will increase because people will resort to what we call ‘under the counter’ methods,” it added, expressing alarm that illegal abortions may emerge as a risky birth control mechanism.
Turkish Women’s Union head Sema Kendirci also criticized Erdoğan’s remarks, stressing that the constitution defines family planning as among the duties of the state.
“Article 41 of the constitution defines the teaching and application of family planning as a duty. Who on earth could have the right to pressure families into having more children than they can provide for?” Kendirci said, speaking to BBC Turkish.
She also criticized Erdoğan’s mention of Islam as a yardstick, saying it must only be up to a family to decide whether they will or will not employ birth control.
“There is no way we can approve discussing this issue based on a religious perspective,” Kendirci added.
Erdoğan’s remarks are in line with his long-term policy of encouraging “at least three children per family,” while describing abortion as “murder” and railing against Caesarean sections.
Women’s rights activists and lawyers have criticized the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which was led by Erdoğan as prime minister from 2003 until he was elected to the presidency in August 2014, for the increasingly conservative and authoritarian political culture they say it is fostering, especially against women.