Turkey's conservative government has dropped plans for a controversial bill that would have slashed the time limit for abortions, a parliamentary source told AFP on Thursday.

“The government has backed away from initial plans to curb abortion rights,” the source said on condition of anonymity, adding that the Islamist-rooted government would instead seek to limit the number of Caesarean sections being performed in the country.

The legislation initially proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), would have required all abortions to take place within the first six weeks of pregnancy, down from the 10 weeks currently allowed.

Experts said the limit would effectively be an abortion ban, since most women do not realise they are pregnant until around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Thousands of women and activists have staged demonstrations throughout the country to protest the planned measures and Turkish media have published surveys that showed that curbing abortion rights would cause AKP to lose votes, even among its female supporters.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sparked further outrage last month when he likened abortion to murder and saying that “every abortion was an Uludere,” referring to a botched attack on Kurds by Turkish warplanes in December that claimed 34 lives.

Erdogan has frequently called for women to have at least three children, and his party intended to criminalise adultery in 2004

but backed off under pressure from the European Union.

Secular Turkey legalised abortion for medical reasons in 1965, broadening the right in 1983 to all women in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. - Sapa-AFP