Pursuant to a month of heated discussions, Turkish government stated that they will not amend the existing laws on abortion in Turkey and restricted their changes to the subject of making caesar sections more difficult to implement. Social media whirled about a few days, press immediately forgot about the issue, but the snake never slept.
Since the debate was bipartisan and centered around the poles of who said what and belonged to which group, a subject so complicated and without a widespread consensus ended up being imprisoned within the walls of daily agenda. No real public discussion was enabled; the opinion makers yelled and gagged and powers to be let it go on while preparing for their real scheme. Since the leader of the governing party made it clear that their “religious and vindictive” new youth should increase in numbers, abortions and family planning should be abolished. This author is fully aware of the fact that his rhetoric is exactly that and nothing more. But in reality AKP government and the state machinery need ignorant, scarcely educated majority to increase as a percentage of total population to guarantee their political and social existence. Since level of education and economical wealth has an inverse relationship with the number of kids in households, their “3 children minimum for each family” motto will evidently succeed only in undereducated and ill-informed population, increasing their vast numbers even more.
So while arguing publicly that the government has no immediate plans to ban abortion, Ministry of Health banned all drugs containing misoprostol used in medical abortion on July 9th with instructions by Turkish Medicine Informations Network. World Health Organisation declares that misoprostol can be used safely to induce an abortion up to nine weeks of pregnancy and places the substance on the List of Essential Medicines. In Turkish pharmacies medicine containing the banned substance-misoprostol; Arthrotec (used in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis treatment) and Cytotec (used in peptic ulcer and Gastroesophageal reflux disease treatment) are banned now. Turkish government is simply preventing ulcer and arthritis patients’ access to affordable treatment with no literature or explanation behind their decision to prevent medical abortions. No other drugs enabling medical abortions that contain Misoprostol or Mifepristone are available in Turkey.
Public fury started after Turkish Prime Minister’s mention that abortion is an equivalent of mass murder in a public speech. Turkey experienced historically very high death rates in pregnant women prior to the legalization of abortion in the early eighties. However, being a country with feudal traditions death rates among young women due to family feuds and sexual issues are still relatively high. With the influence of the rise of conservative values in the society death rates among women increased 1400% during the last seven years according to the Justice Department. Women’s Rights is a severe issue in Turkish society where women even when they are economically independent, are frequently abused by men due to the social and traditional factors. Even according to the existing abortion law, the right to forego the operation is dependent on husband or father’s approval.
In Turkish politics devil is always hidden in detail. Rhetoric and reality does not usually match. The love story between engineering of the society and the ruling elite does not seem to fade away any time soon. While managing the public euphoria and the demands of society at large, the officials follow an unwritten strategy of oppression based on the changing needs of time. As we go through the commercialization of everyday life in Turkey with increasing number of shopping malls and conservatism on the rise, it has been the management strategy of the new elite to blackmail the society with economic growth: “obey, become one of as and prosper.” This strategy helped limit the fight for human rights to ethnic and religious minorities that refuse to join conservative ranks.
And with new pressures applied on freedom of women, religious, ethic or sexual minorities everyday, another “modern” era of assimilation is underway. The state as a supplier of amenities decides who shall receive the charity and who is to be shunned. In a country which calls itself a democracy that is unthinkable. But then again, when you have a closer look, and feel how the Sunni Muslim elite takes on daily issues, the devil’s shining golden teeth grins between each golden ornament in the framework.
With gratitude to Duygu Kara and Rebecca Gomperts for their insight.