WGNRR Expresses Concern on the Turkish Government Statements Threatening Women's Human Rights

On May 25th, Turkish journal "Today’s Zaman" published Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, statement considering abortion a crime and called on society to be against abortion. This declaration was held during the Fifth International Parliamentarians’ Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Istanbul where 300 members of parliament from 110 countries reiterating their commitment to achieve the goals laid out in the ICPD Programme of Action adopted in Cairo, Egypt in 1994. 

Also on May 28, the head of the parliamentary commission for human rights, Ayhan Sefer Ustun - from the Justice and Development Party - also made a press statement, claiming that "abortion is a crime against humanity, and it should be banned", published at the “Radikal”. 
 
These statements might constitute a backlash in access to safe and legal abortion in that country. Turkey is one of the Middle East countries with an open legislation allowing the practice of abortion up to 10 weeks, enabling women having access to health services without risking their lives or their physical and psychological integrity for unsafe and illegal abortions. 
 
The law on access to safe and legal abortion is in accordance with the international instruments that the Turkey Government has signed, ratified and therefore is accountable to. Turkey is a signatory and has ratified international instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Cairo and Beijing ICPD Declarations, which establish sexual and reproductive rights as human rights. 
 
The women’s right to access to integral reproductive health services, including abortion, is ingrained in the international human rights standards, which assures the right to life, health, privacy, and non-discrimination.  Statements against these standards would mean a breach of duty under the international human rights treaties that a State has committed. In this sense, the CEDAW Committee had recommended to State Parties to provide abortion services when the law allowed or to review restricted law interpretations regarding abortion.
 
In the May 28th International Day of Action for Women Health framework, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights condemn the statements made by the high official of the Turkish Government as they would mean a serious backlash for women’s human rights in Turkey, bringing immediate consequences to women’s health. The World Health Organization (WHO) Factsheet on May 2012 estimates reduction of maternal mortality in developing countries is closely related to access to reproductive health services, including access to abortion, while unsafe abortions are the third or fourth cause of it. 
 
Therefore, we encourage the Turkish government to retract these statements and to take necessary measures to ensure fulfilment its international duties in relation to access to reproductive health, including access to safe abortion, in accordance with the international treaties and human rights standards, as well Cairo and Beijing Conferences and Action Plans. 
 
The Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights is a southern-based global network that builds and strengthens movements to realise the full sexual and reproductive health and rights and justice of all people. Our work is grounded in the realities of those who most lack economic, social and political power.