Abortion in Turkey
Abortion in Turkey is legal until the 10th week after the conception. It can be extended if there is an endangerment to the woman's life or the life of the fetus. During the ten weeks, an abortion is allowed for the following reasons: the pregnancy threatens the woman's mental and/or physical health, the fetus would be physically or mentally impaired, if the conception occurred through rape or incest, and economic or social reasons. The woman's consent is required. If the woman is under the age of 18, then parental consent is required. If the woman is married, the consent of the husband is also required. Single women over the age of 18 can choose to have an abortion on their own.
Although Turkey has a nationalized health care system and relatively progressive abortion laws, "abortion services and related procedures are restricted to obstetricians" and "the lack of obstetricians, especially in rural areas, limits women's access to safe abortion services in time." Abortion patients complain about the limited information given to them before going through with the procedure. Only 8% of women undergoing the procedure were told about the immediate return to fertility afterwards, 9% were informed about the risk of infection, only 56% were told what to do if they experienced any post abortion problems. Nevertheless, the examination for women who came for an abortion almost always included obtaining the date of the last menstrual period (72%) as well as a pelvic examination (81%). Opinion polls showed that women in Turkey still generally thought that they need more information on the procedure, especially those doing it for the first time. "Many abortion patients expected to be in pain but not to the extent that they felt after the procedure" and approximately one-half of the abortion patients did not receive any medication for pain during the procedure. Less than one-half (44%) of the abortion patients were told what to do if they experienced any post-abortion problems.
Despite issues, the understanding and education about abortion has improved, and the procedure has become safer since its legalization in 1983. The legalization followed a period of high mortality rates among pregnant women seeking unsafe abortions due to the lack of access to the legal, professional procedure.
In 1983, abortion was legalized in Turkey. In the past, abortions would happen in secret and were usually done in harmful and unsafe ways. Finally, in 1983 Turkey decided to legalize abortions, as they do in Tunisia, during the first trimester no matter what circumstances the mother faces. Out of all the countries in the Middle East region, Turkey and Tunisia are the only two countries in this region that allow abortions under any circumstances during the first trimester. The rest of the Middle East only allows abortions if it affects the health of the woman.
Because abortions were done in secret, they were done in harmful ways. It was one of the major reasons for the death of women at this time. Statistics show that deaths of women caused by harmful abortion methods stood at 50% in the 1950s. Also, in 1974, there were "208 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births."
In 2012, thousands of people went out to protest against the anti-abortion law plan that the then prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had in mind. A total of around 3,000-4,000 protesters went out to voice their opinions and speak against Erdoğan's decision. His decision angered many after giving two speeches against abortion and cesarean births, causing the protest. The protest included women of all ages and they held banners including phrases such as, "My body, my choice" and "I am a woman not a mother, don't touch my body."
Issues with Public Hospitals
Thanks to the legalization of abortions, the number of maternal deaths is only 2% as opposed to the 50% in the 1950s. Also, in 2013, the number of maternal deaths was reduced to "20 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births" as opposed to the 208 in 1974. Although this holds true and abortions are legal, being able to get non-emergency terminations at public hospitals is difficult. It's shown that "only three out of thirty-seven public hospitals in the country" are allowing non-emergency terminations. A law in 2012 came up that stated doctors had the right to refuse to perform abortions if that's what their conscience is telling them and could make waiting periods that would be mandatory. The law didn't pass, but the influence and idea of it has caused health professionals to enact it on their own anyway. They are making it difficult form these women to get abortions. Some hospitals have created a policy to inform fathers of the pregnancy of their daughters. There are also some that don't allow abortion services if the woman isn't married or she is more than six weeks pregnant, although the law allows for abortions no matter the circumstance up until the tenth week of pregnancy.
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