Turkey’s conservative government has dropped plans for a controversial bill that would have slashed the time limit for abortions.
“The government has backed away from initial plans to curb abortion rights,” an unnamed parliamentary source told the AFP news agency on Friday.
The source said 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 have effectively outlawed abortions, since most women do not realise they are pregnant until around the sixth week of pregnancy.
Opposition to the plan
Thousands of women and activists have staged demonstrations throughout the country in protest of the planned measures, while Turkish media published surveys that indicated curbing abortion rights would cause the AKP to lose votes, even among its female supporters.
“The matter is not to ban or not to ban abortion. The matter is to let a new understanding prevail in Turkey compatible with certain principles and enact new regulations“
– Racep Akdag, Turkey’s Health Minister
Nurettin Canikli, an influential AKP lawmaker, also said the ruling party would not introduce a bill to curb abortion rights.
“The abortion issue is off the agenda. No legislation will be introduced to the parliament on this issue,” he told the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
Recep Akdag, Turkey’s health minister, told reporters that his ministry would on Monday submit a report to the cabinet regarding abortion rights. he did not elaborate further.
“The matter is not to ban or not to ban abortion. The matter is to let a new understanding prevail in Turkey compatible with certain principles and enact new regulations,” said Akdag.
“Abortion should never be a family planning method, or a method to prevent an un-intended pregnancy,” he said.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had sparked outrage last month when he likened abortion to murder. He reportedly said that every abortion “was an Uludere,” referring to a botched attack on Kurds from Uludere village 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.
Government officials also chided the high number of Caesarian births in Turkey, where they now represent half of all deliveries.
The health minister had earlier said doctors were warned against performing unnecessary C-sections amid worries that some were forcing women to undergo unnecessary surgeries in order to make more money.