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Women protest against new abortion law in Turkey

Thousands of people, mainly women took to the streets of Istanbul on Sunday following government plans to introduce a new anti-abortion law.
Around 4,000 protesters condemned Turkey’s prime minister after he called the practice “murder”. The government is set to consider a draft law later this month

 

Women of all ages held aloft banners with slogans including “My body, my choice” and “I am a woman not a mother, don’t touch my body” as they marched to the city’s Kadikoy Square.

 

 

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sparked outrage from women’s groups and opposition lawmakers last weekend when he delivered two fiery speeches in which he attacked abortion and caesarean births as secret plots designed to stall Turkey’s economic growth. Abortion, he said, was “murder”.

 

He said on Tuesday his governing AK party was preparing a draft bill on abortion and intended to bring it into law. He gave no details.

 

About 3,000-4,000 protesters, mostly women, took part in the rally on Sunday. They blew whistles and chanted: “AKP, keep your hands off my body” and “Tayyip, it is none of your business.”

 

“It is our right to choose when to give birth or to have children at all. We will not bow to AKP fundamentalism,” said Bahar Guler, 36, holding the hand of her five-year-old daughter.

 

“It is a big decision to be made by the mother only. It’s very ridiculous for the government to have a say in this,” said Nilay Askar, a 28-year-old dentist.

 

Abortion has been legal in the country since 1983, until the 10th week after conception.

 

Mr Erdogan wants Turkey, a mostly Muslim nation of about 75m people, to be among the world’s top 10 economies by 2023.

 

A religious and social conservative, he has for years advocated families having at least three children. On a visit to Kazakhstan recently, deciding three was not enough, he told the country’s prime minister Kazakh families should be having five.

 

Mr Erdogan said last week that caesarean births limited population growth because women who opted for the procedure could not have more than two children.

 

Turkey’s health minister has announced plans to penalise hospitals that carry out elective caesarean sections, calling them unnatural.

Turkey does have a high rate of caesarean births – more than 40 per cent of live births in 2009, according to 2011 figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Only Brazil and China have a higher rate among OECD countries.

 

The World Health Organisation recommends a figure of 15 per cent.

 

Abortion rates in Turkey, however, have steadily declined since the practice became legal in 1983, though many Turks are choosing to have fewer children.

 

At 14.8 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, Turkey still trails far behind global UN figures of 28 per 1,000 or 27 per 1,000 in Europe.

 

 

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

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