Ankara - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday his government was preparing a draft bill on abortion and intended to enact it into law, a move likely to escalate a row over the practice which the Turkish leader has called “murder”.
Erdogan sparked outrage from women's groups, opposition lawmakers and media critics over the weekend when he delivered two fiery speeches in which he attacked abortion and caesarean births as “secret” plots designed to stall Turkey's economic growth. Abortion, he said, 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. He did not elaborate on what the draft bill would entail.
Abortion in Turkey has been legal since 1983 until the 10th week after conception.
Erdogan wants Turkey, a mostly Muslim nation of around 75 million people, to be among the world's top 10 economies by 2023 when the Turkish Republic turns 100-years-old, having seen per capita income treble during his first decade in power.
A religious and social conservative, Erdogan has for years advocated families having at least three children. Last month, he interrupted the Finnish prime minister during a news conference in Ankara to suggest Finns should also have at least three children.
On a visit to Kazakhstan last week, deciding three was not enough, Erdogan told the country's prime minister his people should be having five.
The prime minister also repeated his disapproval of caesarean births, saying they too were nothing but an “operation” to limit population growth because women who opted for the procedure could not have more than two children.
Following Erdogan's initial comments, Turkey's health minister over the weekend announced plans to penalise hospitals that carried out “unnecessary” elective caesarean sections calling them unnatural.
Turkey does have a high rate of caesarean births - more than 40 percent of live births in 2009, according to 2011 OECD figures. Only Brazil and China have more among OECD countries. The World Health Organisation recommends a figure of 15 percent.
Turkey also suffers the highest infant mortality rate in the OECD.
Abortion rates in Turkey, however, have steadily declined since the practice became legal in 1983, though many Turks are choosing to have less children. At 14.8 abortions per 1 000 women in 2008, Turkey still trails far behind global U.N. figures of 28 per 1 000 or 27 per 1,000 in Europe.
Feminists held a small protest outside Erdogan's Istanbul office on Saturday while others let fly at the prime minister over social media.
One prominent lawmaker from the main secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said Erdogan should “stop interfering in women's private choices and govern the country”.
Often brusque in manner, Erdogan sometimes comes across as a stern father, lecturing people on the dangers of alcohol and cigarettes, raising hackles among those Turks who dislike the conservative prime minister intruding on their lifestyles.
The leader of the CHP opposition Kemal Kilicdaroglu this month called Erdogan a “post-modern dictator”.
But Erdogan had a clear message for his critics.
“Some people devoid of decency ask why the prime minister is interfering in these matters. In this country I am responsible for every matter. As a prime minister I will concern myself with everything,” he said. - Reuters