'Abortions are like air strikes on civilians': Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rant sparks women's rage

 

The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sparked a furious response from women's rights activists after comparing abortions to botched air strikes that last year killed of scores of Kurdish civilians.

Turkish law sanctions abortions within 10 weeks from conception. But Mr Erdogan has publicly voiced his opposition, comparing them to "murder".

Yesterday the Health Minister Recep Akdag said the government aimed to reduce the number of abortions and Caesarean births performed in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan told a gathering of the women's branches of his Justice and Development party that "each abortion is one Uludere" – a reference to air strikes on a village on the Iraqi border that killed 34 civilians in December. Abortions, said the PM, were, "a sneaky plan to wipe the country off the world stage".

Mr Erdogan added: "I am a prime minister who opposes Caesarean births, and I know all this is being done on purpose.

"I know these are steps taken to prevent this country's population from growing further. I see abortion as murder, and I call upon those circles and members of the media who oppose my comments: You live and breathe Uludere. I say every abortion is an Uludere."

The comments were condemned by women's rights activists and opposition MPs. Safak Pavey, an opposition MP from the Republican People's Party, said Mr Erdogan had made similar statements in 2005, when he accused the EU of promoting birth control in Turkey in order to lower the population. "Paranoia is really working for him at a time when all these human rights violations are happening," Ms Pavey said. "I don't think he cares at all about Uludere or abortion or Caesarean sections."

On Sunday, dozens of women demonstrated in Istanbul, carrying banners reading, "Is the right to abortion the prime minister's business?" and "It's our womb, we have Caesarean delivery or abortion," according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Mr Erdogan's statement carries particular weight as Turkey prepares to rewrite its constitution and is no longer focused on its European Union accession process.

Recent figures quoted by AFP show that abortion is on the rise in Turkey, climbing from 60,000 in 2009 to nearly 70,000 last year. The country's population of nearly 75 million is youthful in comparison to many countries in the European Union and Mr Erdogan has promoted a policy of high birth rates.

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