Just over 60,000 abortions were performed in 2009; in 2010, the number was 58,186, but in 2011 it increased to 69,364. When announcing the figures, Health Minister Recep Akdağ also told reporters his thoughts on abortions.
When asked about the reasons behind the increase, sociologist Nil Mutluer said it was due to multiple factors, including a higher youth population, families’ desires to have fewer children than in the past and financial difficulties. But one of the biggest reasons, Mutluer said, is that when an unmarried woman gets pregnant she knows that both she and her child will be shunned by society, and ultimately this can lead her to have an abortion. “The other significant reason is the lack of knowledge about birth control. Sexuality and birth control methods are seen as subjects that cannot be talked about. As a matter of fact, it is the opposite, and these are the subjects that should be talked about most to learn what is healthy and what is best for us,” the sociologist said.
Many obstetricians and gynecologists agree with Mutluer, saying that the issues of birth control and family planning are not known well by the public. Dilek Aytekin, a gynecologist in the Memorial Ataşehir Hospital, said that “many people do not think or care about family planning. A great number of women start to think about family planning after they have become pregnant and then apply to family planning centers mostly to consult about abortion services.”
Ayşe Gülçin Demirdöven, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Sema Hospital, noted that there are many patients who demand the termination of their unwanted pregnancy after the first 10 weeks of the pregnancy, even though this is illegal. “This should be considered the same as taking a life. Pregnant women who want to have an abortion after the 10th week should realize that after the first 10 weeks of pregnancy they are carrying a little human being in their belly, and in this sense, abortion is nothing but murder,” Demirdöven said.
Dangers to mother’s health
“Late abortions, those terminating a pregnancy after the first 10 weeks, can be dangerous for the mother’s health and are illegal in Turkey. Although every abortion, even if it is before the 10th week, carries a degree of risk, late abortions are much more critical as the risks of abnormal bleeding, pelvic infection and uterine perforation are higher,” Demirdöven said. “In cases of uterine perforation, it is mostly impossible to become pregnant again.”
“Although modern family planning and maternal health services are readily available in Turkey, and some progress has been achieved in the area of primary mother-child healthcare and reproductive health, there are still serious gaps in the availability of healthcare services in the rural areas as opposed to bigger towns and cities, and especially in the poorer parts of eastern Turkey,” said sociologist Mutluer and added that women who seek to terminate their pregnancies sometimes resort to unsafe methods, particularly when access to legal abortion is restricted. “They may attempt to self-abort or rely on another person who does not have proper medical training or access to proper facilities. This has a tendency to lead to severe complications, tremendous danger to the mother’s health and sometimes death.”
Abortion leads to depression, trauma within families
According to Hasan Basri İzgi, a psychiatrist at Sema Hospital, during the post-abortion period, the mother may experience depression if the abortion has a traumatic impact on her. “It is normal for a woman to experience feelings of loss after the abortion. It often causes depression, hopelessness, guilt and, in a religious aspect, can cause women to feel they’ve committed a sin. Communication between spouses is of utmost significance in this period. We also usually provide treatment for depression for women who have undergone an abortion,” said İzgi.
Meanwhile, Islamist scholar Hayrettin Karaman noted that the Hanafi Madhhab (a school of law within Sunni Islam) does not permit Muslims to abort a child at any stage of pregnancy.