Abortion ban latest issue to polarise Turkey

Women share their views on government's plans for bill that would outlaw abortion beyond first month of pregnancy.

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The controversy over the practice of abortion in Turkey is the latest development reflecting the division between the ruling conservative Justice and Development Party and its opponents in the country.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statement defining abortion as "murder" on May 25 ignited discussion on the issue.

Erdogan further elaborated his stance in the following days, saying that his government was preparing a bill prohibiting abortion after the foetus is four weeks old.

The prime minister, who has frequently called on families to have at least three children, also stated that the widespread practice of cesarean section was "an operation to hinder his country’s population".

He also made an analogy between the 'Uludere incident' and abortion with the words, "Every abortion is an Uludere (incident)."

The 'Uludere incident' involved the killing of 34 Kurdish civilian smugglers by a military air strike near the Iraqi-Turkish border last December.

Recep Akdag, the health minister and Ayhan Sefer Üstün, the chairman of parliament's human rights commission, took Erdogan's discourse a step further by saying that rape victims should not have abortion as "the state would take care of their babies if necessary".

Protests held

The government's statements created uproar especially among some women's organisations and human rights groups.

These groups have loudly opposed the government's views, defending women's right to choose what do to with their body and calling on the government not to politicise the issue.

They argued that a virtual ban of abortion would increase violence against women in a country with widespread incest and rape victims, and would create illegal and unhealthy abortion markets.

Protests were organised in many regions of Turkey, the biggest one held in Istanbul, with up to 4,000 people attending it.

Abortion has been legal in Turkey since 1983 and the practice is allowed until the foetus is ten weeks old. At 14.8 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, the country still trails far behind average global UN figures of 28 per 1,000 in the world.

In 2004, Erdogan's government backed a law criminalising adultery but later abandoned it as a result of national uproar and criticism from the EU.

Al Jazeera spoke to a selection of Turkish women to find out what their views were regarding the possible ban.