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Turkey plans abortion bill

29th May 2012

The government of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is preparing a draft bill on abortion and intends to enact it into law.

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The controversial move is likely to spark a public outcry over abortion, which Erdogan has referred to in previous statements as "murder".

The move sparked an outraged response from women's groups and opposition politicians, as well as drawing some negative media coverage.

Erdogan delivered two fiery speeches over the weekend in which he attacked abortion and caesarean births as "secret" plots designed to stall Turkey's economic growth.

Speaking at a rally of his supporters, he said abortion was "murder".

"We are preparing a law on abortion and we will enact this law," Erdogan told hundreds of cheering people at the opening of a new hospital in Istanbul.

While the bill is likely, given his expressed views, to outlaw or restrict abortion, Erdogan gave no details of the bill's proposed content.

It is legal to seek an abortion in Turkey up until the 10th week of a pregnancy, and has been since 1983.

Erdogan's announcement comes after his attempts in recent years to encourage Turkish families to have at least three children.

He also interrupted the Finnish prime minister during a news conference in Ankara last month, suggesting that Finns should also follow his policy.

Last week, he told the prime minister of Kazakhstan during a visit to that country that Kazakhs should really aim to have five children per family.

The religious and conservative leader is on a political drive to boost the Turkish Republic's economic growth ahead of its 100th anniversary in 2023.

The mostly Muslim nation of around 75 million people should have entered the ranks of the world's top 10 economies by then, according to Erdogan, and he has blamed abortion and caesarean births for damaging economic growth.

Per capita income in Turkey increased threefold during Erdogan's first 10 years in power.

Erdogan sees a rising birth-rate as the key to economic strength, and opposes caesarean births because they limit the woman to just two children.

Meanwhile, the Turkish health minister has pledged to crack down on hospitals that offer elective caesareans that were not entirely necessary.

More than 40% of live births in Turkey are delivered by caesarean section, compared with a figure of 15% recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Turkey also reports the highest rate of infant mortality in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

However, Turkey's abortion rates, which are far behind European or global averages, have declined after a peak following legalisation of the practice.

Reaction to Erdogan's announcement was swift and vociferous, with a small protest by feminist groups outside the prime minister's office in Istanbul, and many comments on social media.

Erdogan should "stop interfering in women's private choices and govern the country," said one prominent lawmaker from the main secular opposition Republican People's Party.

Earlier this month, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu called Erdogan, whose brusque and paternalistic style often gives rise to lectures about alcohol and cigarettes, a "post-modern dictator".

Erdogan responded by saying that he was "responsible for every matter" in Turkey and would concern himself with everything.

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