ISTANBUL — The TurkishMinistry of Health announced that the number of abortions in Turkey doubled over the past decade. Responding to opposition lawmakers' questions on abortion figures, Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu stated that the number of abortions registered in 2002 was 33,007 and this figure peaked in 2012 at 78,961.
Müezzinoğlu said the latest data available for abortions was from the first six months of 2013, which saw 29,226 abortion cases in this period.
As for other years, there were 30,069 abortions in 2003, 32,266 in 2004, 30,502 in 2005, 33,562 in 2006, 35,115 in 2007, 56,529 in 2008, 60,615 in 2009, 57,883 in 2010 and 69,440 in 2011. However, these figures cover only abortions performed at hospitals while the number of unofficial and unregistered abortions performed in secret, particularly those for pregnancies out of wedlock, are not known.
In response to a tweet by ministry adviser Özdinç claiming "an abortion boom" among university students, Müezzinoğlu said it was the adviser's personal view and the ministry did not have a survey on abortion among university students. Özdinç said in his tweet last year that he had reached this conclusion after meeting with gynecologists in neighborhoods populated by university students. "There has been no field study conducted by our ministry in this field," Müezzinoğlu confirmed.
Responding to a question about the accumulation of data regarding abortion cases, Müezzinoğlu said personal data and information on abortions had been recorded but that this private data was not revealed, in line with the ministry's principles of confidentiality and privacy.
Abortion is legal in Turkey up to 10 weeks after conception and 20 weeks in cases involving health concerns.
The consent of a pregnant woman is required for an abortion, although the consent of a husband is sought as well if the woman is married. It was legalized in 1983 after the number of women dying from unsafe, self-induced abortions increased. According to data provided by the Ministry of Health, 10 out of every 100 pregnancies are terminated by abortion. The number of abortions performed in private clinics surpassed 150,000 per year, according to statistics.
Surveys conducted by the ministry show that abortion is used for family planning purposes rather than out of medical necessity.
Abortion was recently included on a list of medical treatments whose expenses are covered by the Turkish state. According to a new regulation, abortion fees in pregnancies less than 10 weeks to be carried out in state-run hospitals are included in social security benefits. Previously, the state paid expenses only in cases where ailments or diseases necessitated performing an abortion. Doctors who refuse to perform abortions face fines. The government does not oppose abortions, but encourages population growth in the face of a rapidly aging population. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan often urges couples to have at least three children. In 2012, proposed legislation was introduced to curb time limits on abortion. The bill would have required abortions to take place within the first six weeks of pregnancy, but it was later shelved. Government officials then said abortion was not a preferred family planning method.
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