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May 31, 2012, Thursday

Dimensions of abortion debate

A heated debate over the increasing abortion rates in Turkey and whether a law banning abortion entirely is needed has fired up following a statement of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said that “every abortion is a murder.” Just after Erdoğan’s statement, the health minister announced that the ministry is working on a draft bill on abortion. The content of the bill is not clear, but a current law already bans abortion after the 10th week of pregnancy. Most columnists agree abortion is indeed ethically wrong, but say it is not the state’s job to be the ethical guide of the public.

Taraf daily columnist Yıldıray Oğur relays a dialogue on the current abortion law recorded in a National Security Council (MGK) report from May 24, 1983, the day when the law -- which prohibits abortions after the first 10 weeks of pregnancy -- was accepted. The dialogue reveals that no discussions or suggestions were made; no opposition was seen. The draft of the law was accepted right away, Oğur says, because those were the times when Turkey was under the rule of the leaders of the 1980 coup d’état. Yet today, as we are trying so hard to fix the mistakes of the coup era, again a hasty amendment to the law on abortion is being prepared without attention to the public’s opinion.

In an article headline, Akşam’s Nagehan Alçı asks “Will it end if it is banned?” She argues that there is nothing surprising about the fact that Erdoğan is raising the issue of banning abortion as this is a common act of conservative politicians everywhere around the world. However, the reality of abortion is one that should be discussed. This reality is that the practice will exist whether you ban it or not. Were people not performing abortions before 1983, when the ban on abortion was lifted? Of course they were, but in illegal and unhealthy ways, she says. The same will happen if abortions are entirely banned again. And the worst of all, this ban will cause great harm to women, as we all know that many women die or are severely injured because of unsafe methods of abortion.

Star’s Fehmi Koru says the debate over abortion is about Erdoğan’s statements and his possible plans to take action on the issue. And now the Ministry of Health has come out and signaled a new law on the practice. Koru argues this should be the other way around: The health minister should be the one to bring this issue up, and on such a sensitive issue, which concerns every woman and her family, the public should have held extensive discussions to reach a consensus on the necessity of such a ban before the legal preparations were ever started.

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