Update 1: Andrew Finkel has an interesting analysis of why abortion (and Caesarian births?!) are suddenly on the front burner, when for a long time abortion hadn’t been an issue at all. Click here.
Update 2: The mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, reportedly told a news program on June 1, “Women kill their babies born out of adultery. Why do babies die because of these so-called mothers? Let mothers kill themselves.” This statement has galvanized both women’s organizations and men to hit the streets to protest an abortion ban — and the attitude of the government toward women. The statement is very revealing of a casual acceptance of violence toward women and denial of women’s ownership of and control over their own bodies, much less their rights as individuals. They are subject to community norms and the penalty for breaking those norms is death.
The AKP, spearheaded by PM Erdogan, is attempting to roll back women’s current right to an abortion in the first ten weeks of pregnancy to four. (click here) That amounts to a ban because four weeks is often the period before a pregnancy is discovered. If this goes through, the ‘morning after’ pill will have a big sales upswing in Turkey.
What is more disturbing is the reasoning — that if births are not increased, Turkey — and Turkishness — will disappear off the map. This is a jingoistic fear that resonates with the old racialist understanding of Turkishness as soy (lineage, descent), a blood-based nationalism like Germany’s jus sanguinis. In such a conception of national membership, there is no room for immigrants, migrants, or minorities, even if they are culturally assimilated. Ask the fourth-generation Turks in Germany.
Also, it puts Devlet Baba (Father State) right back in authoritarian locus parentis, just when everyone thought a liberal constitution will give rights to individuals, and not only to the state. But then, perhaps what is meant is to give male individuals rights, not women, who still are defined by what the state and their community and family needs and wants them to do. They have never been — and appallingly are still not — individuals. Their bodies belong to their families, their husbands, their communities, and — as ever — to the state. These have the right to define, control and dispose of women’s bodies, and although the new Penal Code now protects women as individuals (rape or murder of a woman is no longer treated differently if she is a virgin or not; a rapist may no longer marry his victim in order to be set free), society — led by government example – has not made that leap. If you doubt that, look at the posts under “Women” on this blog.
And what about rape? Well, the government says that children born when “bad things” happen to the mother will be taken care of by the state. Those poor kids — is AKP planning to improve the condition of their miserable orphanages, then? And those poor women. There is no concern whatsoever for a woman’s trauma of bearing a rapist’s child — or her safety in a place like Turkey, where even gossip about a girl or woman can lead the community to drive her out, or her murder by relatives who feel their “honor” has been impugned. Imagine what would happen to the raped woman who must also then give birth. And given the lack of women’s shelters, where is she to escape the violence; where can she safely give birth? Under the eyes of her rapist (more often than not someone in the family or community)? It is a nightmarish scenario that indicates to me that the men making these policies have no idea what goes on in their country with regard to women’s lives. Or they don’t care.
Women’s groups are girding up to fight this, but AKP has shown a tendency to listen to all sides and then do whatever it wants as if no one else had spoken. If need be, they’ll hold the vote in a small room, and then pack it with AKP people so no one else in parliament can get in to cast a vote.