Whatever you think about abortion, you should be concerned that, the Turkish government is showing contempt for democracy and resorting to a natalist nationalist ideology, which is destructive of individual rights including women’s rights.
It looks like abortion after the first month of pregnancy will soon become illegal in Turkey. It is currently legal for the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. We will to see what, if any, medical exemptions are allowed to see how much this is a ban. When abortion was first legalised in Britain during the 1960s, it was only made legal when the physical and mental health of the mother was to to be under threat. In practice, this was interpreted broadly enough to mean that abortion became available on demand through the National Health Service. The rhetoric of the Turkish Prime Minister (Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan), and his ministers, certainly does not suggest that they will allow such a possibility. Detecting pregancny in the first month is evidently difficult and unusual, and the strict application of a ban beyond one month will effectively mean that legal abortion in Turkey will become very unusual.
Obviously those who oppose abortion to the extend that they believe it should be a crime will welcome this. Some of those who welcome this will not be supporters of the moderate Islamist-conservative government in Turkey and will be socially liberal on other issues. In that respect, the government has chosen to push a social conservative issue in quite a clever way, as being for abortion rights is a socially liberal issue that’s divide for social liberals, particularly those with religious commitments.
There have been demonstrations agains the proposed legislation in Istanbul, but numbered in the thousands. Only demonstrations in the hundreds of thousands could possibly make a difference, since the government party, the Justice and Development Party, has a very large majority in the national assembly. If there are any constitutional barriers to the proposed legislation, I have yet to hear about them.
Why should ‘pro-life’ antiabortion people be concerned?
First of all, lack of democratic procedure. The idea of legislation has come up very suddenly. It was not in the AKP (Turkish acronym for the government party) general election program. There is no proposal for a referendum, and no proposal for consultations with civil society, expert groups, or the opposition parties in the National Assembly. If the government wants to introduce such legislation, the decent thing in terms of respect for democracy as a set of procedures, and not just the brute power of the governing majority, would be consolation, followed by a referendum, or by preparing a proposal to be included in the party’s next general election proposal.
Secondly, the appeal to a natalist nationalist ideology which is bad on a few fronts itself. The Prime Minister and his associates, have justified the proposed restrictions on abortion with reference to promoting population group and the paranoiac assumption that hostile parties want to restrict the growth of the population in Turkey. The appeal to population growth rather than the welfare of the people, and the justice of the laws of the nation, is a resort to a nationalist ideology destructive of individual rights and general welfare. The suggestion that women are under a duty to breed more Turks is the reduction of women to the status of instruments of nationalist ideology and encourages a whole culture of disrespect. This obsession with natalist nationalist ideology extends to opposition to birth by cesarian section, because this reduces the future reproductive possibilities for the pregnant woman. This should be a purely a matter of the choice of the woman concerned, acting in the light of medical advice of a kind referring to her welfare and not bombastic anti-individualistic forms of nationalism.
The natalist-nationalism is a guaranteed failure, and storming suggests that AKP cannot last as a large democratic party. Experience shows that increased prosperity reduces child birth s in all countries, and maintaining the population level is enough of a difficult task