Turkish gynecologists respond to PM's accusations of ‘sterilizing women'
A large number of women have gathered in İstanbul many times to protest the government’s restriction on the practice of abortion in Turkey. (Photo: İHA, Abbas Ramazanoğlu)
The Turkish Gynecologists and Obstetricians' Association (TJOD) issued a press statement on Tuesday indicating that thousands of gynecologists are offended by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recent claims about abortions and Caesarian sections, which he defined as “murder,” being carried out systematically for years as part of a plot to “sterilize women.”
Erdoğan made the comments on June 18 at an event organized by the Family and Social Policy Ministry to publicize the ministry's “Being a Family” project. The TJOD, which is the main association for almost 5,000 gynecologists in Turkey, said in its statement that “Turkish gynecologists across the country put their hearts and souls into maternal and infant health” and that the “Caesarian section is a medical procedure to which doctors resort only when necessary to save lives of the mother and the baby, not a method of sterilization.”
As for abortions, the statement says that Turkish legislation allows optional abortion up to 10 weeks of pregnancy and that gynecologists always work within the law. The TJOD stated that in recent years, there has been a significant drop in the number of abortions and deaths of mothers in childbirth, extending the average lifespan of women by 14 years, as a result of the hard work of devoted doctors. Furthermore, only one in 50 deaths of mothers during childbirth is caused by abortion, while the average world rate is one in eight, the statement says. The association also emphasized that abortions in Turkey result from the infrequent use of birth control methods such as intra-uterine devices and contraceptives, which are common in developed countries.
The TJOD stated that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the proportion of Caesarian sections should be on average around 15-20 percent of all deliveries. Currently, the average is 27 percent in OECD countries, 33 percent in the US and 36 percent in Italy, but it increased to 45 percent in Turkey in 2010 from 36 percent in 2007. The TJOD attributes this increase the pain of childbirth, a lack of midwives and pre-natal classes and doctors' fear of making mistakes. It is also added that the TJOD has started a study in cooperation with the Health Ministry in order to fight against the increasing number of Caesarian sections.