Updated: May 17, 2022
Health professionals in Turkey have hit out after security services demanded lists of the names of all women who had abortions in Istanbul between January 2017 and May 2019 as part of “terror investigations.”
Istanbul’s Provincial Directorate of Security demanded the confidential information by September 13 in a letter sent to every public and private hospital across the city.
The letter pressed health professionals to hand over the names of women aged between 30 and 40 years old with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), along with those who had terminations.
Turkish police claimed the information was necessary as part of ongoing investigations into membership of armed terrorist organisations, bribery and “insulting the president and state elders.”
People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP for Ankara Star Filiz Kerestecioglu hit out at the move. She told the Star the move was an attempt to blacklist women.
“What has this got to do with terror? How would having PCOS or an abortion be related to insulting the president or membership of Feto [the organisation of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen?” she asked.
Under Turkish law, information related to health and sexual life falls within the scope of “personal data of special quality.” This information is confidential and can only be given under certain conditions. Personal data relates to political, philosophical or religious views and ethnicity. Recording this information unlawfully can lead to a prison sentence of one to three years.
But if the penalty is related to unlawful moral tendencies, sexual life, health conditions or trade union connections, the penalty given under the first paragraph shall be increased by half.
While abortion is legal in Turkey up to the first 10 weeks of a pregnancy, women face difficulties partly due to the country’s strict moral and religious codes.
In 2012 thousands of women took to the streets to protest against plans by then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to introduce a restrictive anti-abortion law.
They raised slogans including “My Body, My Choice” after two speeches in which he claimed absurdly that abortion was stalling Turkey’s economic growth, branding the procedure “murder.”
Mr Erdogan insists that women should only exist in the domestic sphere, dedicated to traditional roles such as cooking and other household chores.
The religious and social conservative believes that women who don’t have children are failures and that families should have at least five children.
While the laws on abortion remain in place, if a woman is married then she must gain the consent of her husband to have a termination.
The Istanbul Medical Chamber warned that the move would damage the relationship between patients and clinicians.
UPDATE Sep 17, 2019.
Startled by the negative reactions from all sides, Istanbul’s Provincial Directorate of Security abandoned the idea... for now.