Turkey is experiencing a politicisation of abortion, a phenomenon widely observed in the US. The Islamist government intends to bring into voting a law that will only not allow abortion after the fourth week of gestation. This, is practically a ban, as Dr Mustafa Ziya Günenc stresses, as no termination of pregnancy can be performed at that stage.
The political motive of the bill becomes clear from the Prime Minister’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan statements that “There is no difference between killing a baby in its mother’s stomach and killing a baby after birth” and that abortion and elective caesareans were “secret plots” to slow Turkey’s growth.
There is a widely held feminist argument that maintains that such bills pass because the people drafting them are men. It is, in fact, narrow-minded and manipulative to relate such an important, serious and personal decision to politics. It is true that abortions are deeply embedded to local culture and the people’s standing on matters of life, death and spirituality. Furthermore, laws that fail to capture the society they aim at regulating are vacuum and often dangerous. However, the motive behind the legalisation on abortions has never been solely the promotion of liberal agenda. As proven by statistics, banning abortions is a public health hazard, as determined women will be willing to put themselves at risk to undergo the procedure.
Abortion is not a novel procedure. In Ancient Greece it was a wide-held practice, which even caused a philosophical debate on whether people acquire their humanity after birth. In Rome the practice was outlawed, but widely performed. Christians in general opposed it, while 19th century feminists were divided on the matter. Regardless of the moral, ethical and philosophical issues embedded to the practice, it was and still is widely performed due to special circumstances that force women to choice it instead of carrying the foetus full term.
Seeing abortion only as a choice, rather than a necessity is limiting. There are many reasons why a woman may choose to terminate a pregnancy. Medical reasons are usually projected as a notable reason with its own complications. In the case of a non-life threatening, but serious disability, for example, a couple may feel unable to cope with the responsibilities associated. It is not just a eugenics mentality, as one could argue, but pure, old-fashioned human incapacity to cope with an overwhelming reality that may result to more harm than good.
However, special consideration should also e given to the social and personal circumstances of that force the living, breathing and fully developed women to take such hard decisions. An underage girl may be too fragile to continue with a pregnancy caused by an unfortunate moment with an equally immature boyfriend. An older woman may just feel incapable of taking care of a baby and her social positioning will most likely prevent her from giving it up for adoption. A student may choose to go on with her education instead of going through with the pregnancy in hopes of being able after a few years to offer her future children with material goods and the type of affection only a fulfilled person can give. And I won’t even discuss cases of rape or incest.
Many people debate at length on the actual pregnancy and the presence or absence of humanity of the foetus instead on concentrating on the life prospects of this creature once born. In fact, in the majority of countries limited assistance is offered to these women who choose to keep the children and even when they are offered that option, balancing out all their responsibilities is almost impossible, especially when they feel that they have been forced to have the child. This reality may create an unhealthy environment for the child and expose it to great dangers, cause emotion scaring and start a circle of violence, negligence or poverty that could be reproduced for many generations to come.
In a post-modern world, quality of life should prevail over quantity and family planning should be at the heart of health education. Allowing abortions to remain legal is not the solution, but only part of a greater scheme. This practice should always be accompanied with access to contraceptives and information materials targeting especially tweens and teens. Such information can be adapted to different cultures without loosing its central message and should expand to issues of STP, sexual violence and gender relations. After all, offering people choices is the best way to make these choices accepted by the wider population, thus preventing the stigmatization both of the person deciding to abort the foetus and of the person deciding to continue with the pregnancy. Each option is presented as a choice, rather than as something forced and shameful.
On the other hand, outlawing abortions is a step back, both metaphorically and practically: it positions the health of women, the vessels of society, in the hands of professionals that in the best case scenario they have knowledge but lack equipment and in the worst case scenario they are charlatans that will cause the patient serious disability or even death. Moreover, as the statistics have shown, the legalisation of abortions has indeed saved many lives: the lives of women that would have ended up dead if the procedure had not be performed following the medical community’s standards. And the lives of those who committed suicide out of despair.
An open-minded society has the potentials to be self-aware and morally sound. Sexual acts will continue to take place regardless of the legislation and it is a reality that should be accepted by all parties involved in this debate. In such a context, pro-choice means pro-life in more than one way. It is pro-life as it protects women’s life, it is pro-quality of life as it assists in the safeguarding of the children’s quality of life and is it pro-life without stigmatization, as it exonerates pregnancy. This may not be easily understood by men, but as a woman, I firmly believe that if I was in such a position, I would find it empowering to face society and say having or not having a child is a choice that is fully mine and I stand behind it, rather than hold my head low, be silent and internalize frustration, disgust and disillusionment that I will eventually channel to the people close to me. And this is a harsh reality that often eludes politicians too ambitious and driven by their personal goals.
- Many “Pro-Life” Americans Don’t Want To Outlaw Abortion (motherjones.com)
- What the polling on abortion actually tells us | Harry J Enten (guardian.co.uk)
- Erdogan’s Call to Ban Abortion in Turkey Will Only Increase Deaths (ibtimes.com)