Legal but not accessible: abortion in Turkey from an ethical perspective

Can abortion just be a medical decision?

As has been reported by Amnesty International, “Around 47,000 women die as a result of unsafe abortions every year.” The testimony of Rajat Khosla, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research and Advocacy shows the peril of the siege over women’s bodies. Although the political authorities try to establish their presence under the subject of religious sensitivity with the slogan that “abortion is murder”, many women have died as a result of the operations carried out under improper conditions.

In countries where abortion is restricted or prohibited, women who are wealthy have the chance to get an abortion abroad and return to their countries, while the poor have to terminate their pregnancy using dangerous methods such as clothes hangers, as in Argentina.

In this context, it is not possible for women — especially those that are struggling economically — to make decisions about their own body and implement them under safe conditions.

As a result, those seeking abortions are further marginalised with each passing day.

Abortion debates get even more intensified when we consider how governments perceive women’s bodies as a medium of capitalist reproduction (as described in Marxian Economics) and try to intervene in women’s bodily integrity using religion as a pretext.

From the most conservative countries to the most ‘modern’ ones, anti-abortion creates authority over the female body, albeit in different doses. By denying that abortion is a human right to bodily integrity, the abortion process is blocked by ‘regulatory’ laws.

The pandemic has already affected the reproductive rights of women.

The access to abortion has been limited even in countries where abortion is legal. Abortion centers are being reserved for COVID-19 patients, pre-appointments are difficult when clinics are open, and the prohibition of abortion is expressed louder than ever.

In Turkey, where abortion is legal; anti-abortion policies have been implemented since the first years of the Republic. Especially after World War I, using the decrease in the population ratio as an excuse, parents were incentivised to have children. There was also a period during which having access to contraception methods and pregnancy termination were made difficult. The legal consequences of having an abortion was stated as imprisonment and fines. With an amendment made in 1938, under the title of “Crimes Against the Unity of the Race and Health”, abortion was even named a betrayal of Turkishness

With the Law on Population Planning No. 2827, which became effective in 1983, it was stated that one can decide to get an abortion until the tenth week of pregnancy, and the abortion ban was abolished. Under the same law, arbitrary abortion is subject to the consent of the spouse if the pregnant woman is married, and the permission of the parent if the pregnant woman is a minor.

Although abortion was made legal as of 1983, anti-abortion rhetoric has continued and even increased.

Especially after the AKP (Justice and Development Party) came to power, the abortion opposition was used as a means of consolidating society with the statement that “the duty of women is motherhood by nature.” “I see abortion as murder, nobody should have the right to allow this” stated AKP president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2012 reflecting a patriarchal perception, and creating a period during which pressures on women have increased and abortion has become virtually prohibited.

Although abortion is a legal right in Turkey, there are certain situations in which abortions are not performed in public and even certain private hospitals unless it is deemed a medical necessity. Indeed, there remain obstacles to abortion; abortions are left to the doctors’ initiative, abortion appointments are given weeks after the request, and there is pressure against hospitals that perform abortions. Due to this, women experience shame and trauma when they return home.

According to the “Abortion Services in State Hospitals” report published by Kadir Has University in 2016; in 53 out of 81 provinces, there are no hospitals that provide abortion services on demand.

In an environment where abortion is de facto banned, we are also experiencing a period during which assistive mechanisms of contraception methods have decreased, and women have to face an increase of unwanted pregnancies.

The decisions regarding the lives and bodies of women living in economic difficulties are unjustly left to the initiative of the authorities.

The common feature of governments that try to make abortion illegal is that they oppose gender equality and clearly state this. Trump being the first US president to participate in anti-abortion actions in the USA, the recent discussion in Poland on abortion ban, the emphasis on political Islam in Turkey, supporting that women and men cannot be equal and that the sacred duty of women is to bear children, while discussions about the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention are going on, show that the capitalist and patriarchal mentality is imposing its hegemony all over the planet.

The continuous subjection to violence, the disregard for domestic labor, marginalization in working life, exposure of immigrant women to pressure during and after migration are only some of the reflections of the efforts to ‘put women in their place’.

We will either live the life they try to convict us of, or build our future right from where the Dominican Mirabal sisters started, from who we inherited the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November.

In the words of Margaret Atwood:

“There isn’t “the future” that we’re doomed to enact. There are all kinds of possible futures. And which one we’re going to get is going to depend on what we do now.”

Right now, our sisters are defending their civil liberties and right to bodily autonomy in the streets against patriarchy’s domination over women all around the world.

We, members of Gender 1 DSC and DiEM25 Volunteers, stand against all kinds of attempts to infringe on the lives of women and the LGBTQIA+.

We will not allow any government or sexist mentality to hide the discriminations they created by using women’s bodies as a token on which they base political rhetoric and action.

We will increase our solidarity with women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and all who are oppressed by patriarchy and capitalism. We will fight collectively for our present and future, against the darkness, and in doing so create a butterfly effect. We will fight against the darkness of patriarchy, which threatens to lock us in our houses and turn our bodies into a vessel for reproduction. 

Photo Source: Daily Beast.

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