According to the survey, only eight of Turkey`s 81 provinces have at least one public hospital that performs abortions on demand, and only two of them have more than one. Of the 295 clinics surveyed, 14% said they would not perform abortions for reasons other than a medical emergency. She had an abortion after nine weeks, a week before it became illegal in Turkey. Sevilay says she felt broken by the emotional toll and harsh treatment. After the abortion, she felt terrible. These statements were quickly followed by a bill that, among other things, shortened the legal deadline for abortions and introduced a right to «conscientious objection» for doctors. Under protests from women`s rights groups and medical associations, the bill was eventually withdrawn. But what followed in recent years shows that the damage was already done even without an anti-abortion law. «I`ve been told many times that you can`t have an abortion here, we don`t,» says Esra. «I told them it was my right, but they always refused.» Erdogan, who is known for having large families, provoked even more anger when he compared abortion to airstrikes on civilians.
Unfortunately, the story of Sevilay is all too common in Turkey. This is something that Hazal Atay can confirm. She is an outreach coordinator at Women on Web, a Dutch platform that helps women access abortion in restrictive countries. According to the report «Abortion Services in Public Hospitals» published in 2016 by Kadir Has University; In 53 of the 81 provinces, there are no hospitals offering abortion services on demand. Of the 37 public hospitals contacted, only 3 said they offered elective abortions, 17 said they only do so in cases of emergency complications, and 12 hospitals refused to offer emergency abortions. Abortion became legal in 1983. According to 2008 data, 10% of pregnancies in Turkey were terminated by abortion, far less than the European average of 30%. «Because the state does not facilitate access to contraceptive methods, and because they are very expensive, women, especially the poorest, seek abortions. High prices lead to unwanted pregnancies, but they also have difficulties with abortion, so the problem continues to grow,» Erkmen said. The European Parliament voted to make abortion a fundamental right in the 27-nation bloc.
The vote is a response to the annulment of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. Turkey is one of the few Muslim-majority countries where abortion is legal, but access to it is increasingly restricted under the conservative government. Abortion has been legal in the country since 1983 — and wealthy women in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, where the procedure is banned, often turn to Turkish clinics. But it is still deeply stigmatized in Turkey. Women seeking abortion in Turkey face significant dangers and many obstacles. Although the procedure is legal, experts say that in reality, there is a de facto ban allegedly orchestrated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The prime minister is also the subject of international criticism. The US-based human rights organization Human Rights Watch warned that restrictions on abortion would threaten «women`s human rights to life, health, equality, privacy, physical integrity, and freedom of religion and conscience.» On his first visit to the clinic, the doctor was friendly and accommodating. «But when I went to have an abortion, the same doctor and nurse started acting very coldly,» she says.
Public hospitals can simply deny women access based on what the president says, not the law. For example, low-income women – in many cases Syrian refugees – turn to backyard clinics that perform the procedure illegally. Another major barrier is affordability: even if a woman has access to an abortion, the cost of the procedure varies and is often far too expensive. A private clinic told DW it charges 900 Turkish liras (150 euros, $171) for procedures up to the sixth week of pregnancy; Each additional week costs an additional 100 lire. With this tariff, an abortion after the tenth week costs 1,600 lire (about 270 euros), which is no small feat in Turkey – a country where the average household income is well below the European average and where only about a third of women are employed. «I had a fever and clotted blood was coming out of my body,» she says. At the nearest public hospital, doctors performed emergency surgery after determining that her abortion was incomplete. «They treated me in one of the hospitals where I was told that no abortion would be performed. It would have been so easy and safe if they had reached an agreement,» says Ezra.
In May 2017, it was discovered that R.G. in Mersin, Turkey, was 10 weeks pregnant after months of sexual abuse and rape by 5 men. Her request to terminate her pregnancy was blocked for weeks by courts that denied her access to abortion and led to delivery. His ordeal was recently acknowledged by the Constitutional Court, which ruled in September 2020 that his rights had been violated and awarded him TL 100,000 in compensation. The Population Planning Act of 1983 allows abortion up to the 10th week. After 10 weeks, abortion is allowed if the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the mother or if there is a risk that «the child and future generations will be severely disabled.» Abortion is legal in Turkey for all women up to the 10th week of pregnancy and up to the 20th week of pregnancy for medical reasons. By law, it must be performed free of charge in any public hospital. «We have seen more and more hospital administrations pressuring doctors not to perform abortions,» says Irmak Sara, an obstetrician and member of the Istanbul Medical Association`s Women`s Commission.
«The conservative atmosphere and debate about the fetus` right to life increase the rate of conscientious objection.» «Since the understanding that abortion is murder is imposed by the government, some doctors do not perform surgeries even if it is against the law. They know they will be protected by the government when women complain,» Erkmen said. In an interview with Medfeminiswiya, Erkmen said: «After the abortion debates, the perception of this issue has changed so much that many people, including some hospitals, think abortion is now illegal. «Every abortion is like an uludera,» he said, referring to an incident last December in which 34 civilians were killed by the Turkish military in an airstrike near the Iraqi border. After thinking about it, she made the difficult decision to have an abortion, which required her husband`s permission, as required by law in Turkey. She thought that was the hardest part. «You can see that the AKP has used anti-abortion rhetoric as part of its efforts to control women in every way,» she said, adding that the government`s discourse on family values dates back to 2007. Other government officials followed in their leader`s footsteps, as often happens, with similar anti-abortion rhetoric. «I was very upset when I found out I was pregnant.
I wondered if I could do it or not. I struggled with two children. There was no one to help me. In 1983, abortion was legalized in Turkey (it was adopted in 1982 under a military government).  In the past, abortions took place in secret and were generally performed in a harmful and dangerous manner. Finally, in 1983, Turkey decided to legalize abortion, as it does in Tunisia, during the first trimester, regardless of the circumstances the mother faces. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Turkey and Tunisia are the only two countries in this region that allow abortion in all circumstances during the first trimester. The rest of the Middle East only allows abortions if they affect the woman`s health.  Since abortions were performed in secret, they were performed in a harmful manner. This was one of the main reasons for the death of women at that time.